Monday, August 31, 2009

Trashed in Columbia Heights

Clean NeighborsThat's what happens to my street, about every day. It gets trashed. I don't mean like a bunch of drunk frat boys. And it's not as bad as, say, Bourbon Street after Mardi Gras. But people throw crap on the sidewalk all the time.

I've started picking up trash sometimes when I walk N's dog, at least every other day and sometimes every day. I didn't start this because I'm trying to be some neighborhood do-gooder martyr or something. It's because I wanted the dog the be able to piss in the tree boxes without having to worry about broken glass. So it began with picking glass out of the treeboxes. But it always starts small, doesn't it?

Now, this dog, while cute as hell, is incredibly badly behaved. He has a paper-product fetish. If you leave a napkin where he can get it, he will eat it. If he can get his mouth around a roll of toilet paper, you think it's Halloween and some drunk kids toilet papered your house. He will clean out the bathroom trash can in seconds. And don't even think about leaving actual food where he can get it. David Copperfield couldn't make a pizza disappear faster. It's pretty unbelievable, actually.

So I soon learned that just picking up the glass wasn't going to be enough. I had to keep the sidewalks clear of paper products, too. Any disgusting napkin or q-tip or McDonald's wrapper was a delicious treat for this demented dog. Rather than spend half of the time on the walk avoiding bits of trash here and there, I just started picking them up. It made life a lot easier.

I must admit, it has gone way beyond it's original purpose. I've started to actually look forward to picking up the trash on the morning walks. I get excited when I find a broken bottle I can clean up. I've maybe even been a little disappointed when there's no trash some days. Yeah, it's pretty sad. I probably should get a hobby, like shrub-sculpting.

But the trash, the glorious trash! Sometimes there's a lot of stuff, especially Sunday mornings. But lately, there have been days when I've gotten next to nothing. I feel like the rate of trash production on the block and a half I "maintain" has gone down since I started picking stuff up. My theory is people may feel a little bad, sometimes, about littering on an otherwise clean block. Not everyone of course. But lately, I've had to walk a little farther to fill up my Giant bag with trash in the morning. It used to be that just one turn on to Spring Road would guarantee me a half-dozen malt liquor cans or bottles and at least one mess of someone's lunch from Wendy's the day before. Now, it's only every few days that I even find an unbroken bottle.

I've also started to notice a lot of patterns in where and when the trash is produced.

1) The majority of the trash appears at roughly the same spots, and generally spreads from there. Bad neighbors. Bad.

2) Someone must be parking their car between 10th and 11th on Spring Road, eating their Wendy's, and chucking their trash on the sidewalk about every single day. Lame. On the other hand, they will probably suffer a heart attack within the next few years, so it's a self-solving problem.

3) People are a lot more likely to deposit trash in overgrown treeboxes. No surprise there.

Sullivan. Don't let his docile appearance deceive you. He is a bad dog.
4) People will leave trash on their steps or front yards for weeks and just not care. Generally, I only pick up crap in the sidewalk itself and the treeboxes, since the street sweeper will get the rest, and people's steps are their steps. But when I've seen the same rotting paper bag with a couple empty beer cans in it sitting on someone's step for a week, I might have to take it.

5) I am thinking about starting a new feature: "piece of trash of the day."

6) I'm just kidding. Sort of.

The point of this post is really just anthropological. I'm not on a mission to create the citizen's trash picking corps. Though it has occurred to me that if even one in ten dog owners picked up a few pieces of trash whenever they walked their dogs, the city would probably be spotless. Something to think about.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Animal Kingdom, Part 1

In the sleepy month of August, there is usually little news in the world to take our minds off the stifling heat and humidity of Washington. Luckily, the animal kingdom has provided some amusement that has alleviated the ennui somewhat. As I may have mentioned before, N. and I spend a lot of time on the front porch watching the world go by, and today's post is a front-porch tale.

While organizing the kitchen recently, I came across some items in the cupboard that one of my recent temporary tenants had left behind. These included organic unsalted sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and some other hippie food I had either not heard of or could not identify. Either way, I certainly had no intention of eating these items, that most likely would need to be soaked, ground, or leavened before use. I was about to throw this stuff away but thought I would save the sunflower seeds for the birds out front.

It all started innocently enough. I'd toss a handful of them down the steps, and the little sparrows or whatever would come by and eat them. Then, a few days later, they started showing up in the morning before I'd thrown any seeds down. They would look up at us on the porch, sternly, agitated by the absence of sunflower seeds. Hey buddy, where's my breakfast? So I threw them some seeds, and they seemed content.

Then they brought some friends. It wasn't just a few birds like before, it was a small flock, a dozen or more. All hopping impatiently around the sidewalk and front stoop, awaiting their handout. Images of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds started to materialize in my thoughts. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. But these are little birds, what harm could they do? They were cute, if slightly intense, and certainly entertaining. Little did I know that this was a harbinger of events to come.

A few days later, N. picked up a birdfeeder at Target. It was simple and attractive, and at $4.99 after its third markdown, a bargain. On Friday afternoon, the new birdfeeder was hung in the tree in front of our house. The birds seemed unaware of its purpose for at least a day. There was no evidence of any feeding Friday afternoon or much of Saturday. N. noticed that first bird had found it late Saturday. Hooray! Now they could feed themselves, and we would have a nice diversion to help while away the lazy summer days. In the beginning, it was delightful and pleasant. A bird here, a bird there. Sometimes two would land at once, and they would playfully bicker over a nut or seed that must have been especially tasty. The birds were happy, we were entertained. We went to sleep Saturday night pleased with our newfound diversion.

Sunday, everything changed. We were out for much of the day. Upon returning late in the afternoon, it was clear that all was not right. Though there wasn't a bird in sight, the bird feeder was swaying in the tree. Obviously, they had vacated quickly upon our approach. N. and I were unloading things from the truck. As I was putting a box away inside the house, I heard a scream from outside. Anxious, I ran to the front door. N. was staring at the birdfeeder, aghast. It was nearly empty. When we had left the house a few hours before, it was almost completely full.

How could a dozen sparrows clean out a birdfeeder, with at least a 6-cup capacity, in mere hours? What kind of ravenous beasts were these? How was it even physically possible? How would we afford the bird seed?

These questions were troubling indeed, but there wasn't time to think about the developments. As we urgently needed wine following our long day, we hurriedly cracked a bottle of Pinot Gris and settled into our regular porch-sitting positions. The birds had again increased their numbers. The new reinforcements numbered easily two dozen by one count. There was a noticeable amount of guano in the front yard, too. We watched them and drank. We drank and watched. We wondered if, perhaps, we owned the only bird feeder in Columbia Heights.

Monday morning, 7:15 AM. Today. I woke and leashed up Sully for his morning constitutional. As I emerged into the crisp August air (really, something you don't get very often in these parts), it seemed strangely silent in the front yard. Where were the birds? Perhaps sleeping in due to yesterday's indulgences? As I walked down the sidewalk towards Sully's favorite pooping spot near the asylum at the end of the street, I saw something deeply troubling.


Two pigeons were walking conspicuously on the sidewalk mere steps from my front door. I thought to myself, I've never seen pigeons on our street before. As I had been asleep minutes before, and had yet to consume my morning crack coffee, I was apparently a little slow on the draw. I did not make the connection between the ill-conceived bird feeder and the existence of pigeons on my street. Sully conducted his business amiably, if slightly slowly, and we returned home.

There was a pigeon sitting on the lamp post in front of my house. It sat there silently for a while, then flew to the tree briefly. Then it landed on my car. The sparrows never land on my car, I thought to myself.

There are several things that I absolutely do not want in front of my house.

1) Pigeons.
2) Pigeons in my tree.
3) Pigeons shitting on my car.
4) Pigeons anywhere near my house.

Finally, the rusty gears in my groggy brain began turning, and the light dawned. We had brought this upon ourselves. Somehow, word had spread in the avian community that there was a bird feeder on 11th Street and it was open for business.

Sadly, this experiment had to be terminated, a mere three days after its inception. I took the birdfeeder down this morning. I can only hope that it's not too late, that the damage has not been done. Only time, and pigeon shit, will answer that question.

It is a sad allegory for life. It just takes one bird running his mouth to ruin things for everyone. Foolish sparrows, why couldn't you just enjoy what had been given to you? Why did you have to tell all your friends? Somehow, the word had spread to the pigeons of 14th Street that there was a birdfeeder on 11th. But this is a civilized place, a place for sparrows and squirrels, not for rats and pigeons. Perhaps this may seem discriminatory. Why can't I show the same love for pigeons that I do for sparrows? Why would I selfishly shut down the birdfeeder for all, just because I don't want to feed pigeons? Is it their fault that they were born pigeons?

No, it's not. I don't hate pigeons inherently. But I'll tell you why I don't want them on my street.

Because pigeons shit on my car and I can't afford 50 pounds of bird seed every week.

Look for The Animal Kingdom, Part 2: Cats and Dogs coming soon.

Picture of field sparrow from the Audobon Society. I took a picture once of a sparrow in my front yard. It would have been a really good picture, because it was of a sparrow making off with a chicken bone. Certainly something you don't see every day. Unfortunately, it didn't come out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Help An Animal In Need

I'm going to break from my usual snarky blogging to help publicize an important effort on behalf of the Washington Humane Society. A friend of mine works for WHS and has recently been working to raise awareness in the case of Trooper, the pit bull who was found near death in a dumpster. This was most likely the result of dog fighting, the illegal and inhumane sport which is known to take place in private yards and basements around the DC area.

Trooper underwent extensive emergency medical care at Friendship Hospital for Animals and was hospitalized for two weeks to save her life. She is now out of the woods and continues to improve, thanks to the efforts of dedicated people at WHS, and contibutions from people around the country.

Unfortunately, dog fighting is still a fact of life in DC. There are always animals in need of emergency medical care, and WHS does not have the resources to pay for these expenses directly. Sophie's Fund was established to pay for emergency medical care for animals in need. Even though Trooper is out of the woods, the fund still greatly needs support. Please help if you can.

Stay Involved - Follow Trooper's Progress

Washington Humane Society Blog
WHS Humane Law Enforcement Division on Twitter
WHS Facebook Group
WHS home page

NPR story about Trooper (summary, and audio)

Photo: Washington Humane Society

Seattle Bags Bag Tax

Seattle, Washington was set to be the first major city in the country to implement a plastic bag tax like the one Washington, DC recently passed, and I oppose. In a referendum yesterday, 60% of Seattle voters opposed it. And so it's done: No bag tax in Seattle. That leaves DC as the petri dish in this country for the effects of a tax on shopping bags.

Seattle is without question one of the most environmentally progressive cities in the country. These guys have been recycling since before there were landfills. They have biodeisel fueling stations. There's so much hemp clothing there, you can get a contact high in a laundromat.

And the voters rejected a bag tax.

An independent group of economists has opposed the Seattle tax since the beginning, arguing that there will be significant economic impact and very little if any benefit to the environment.

The opposition to the bag tax was well-funded by the petroleum industry. They spent over a million dollars on PR. The proponents of the law, in comparison, raised less than $70,000.

Of course, the losers here will argue that big-business interests won the day. I don't see it that way at all. If there was any kind of significant community support for the tax, don't you think they could have come up with more than 70 grand for something important? Maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a very strong sentiment in favor of the tax. And at the end of the day, this was won by a vote. Maybe the Seattle voters aren't that stupid after all.

Too bad in DC, the law prevents any referendum that will have a fiscal impact. We don't have the chance to vote on our bag tax. We just had it shoved down our throats by people who really have no idea what the impact will be, who seem to know what's best for us, consequences be damned. So much for home rule.

If there could be a referendum here, there is no doubt in my mind that the tax would be trounced. If 60% of hippie-crunchy voters in Seattle don't favor it, imagine what the vote would look like in DC.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nothing To Report, But I Will Anyway

It's August and it's slow as hell. Work has been pretty busy at least. I can't believe I think that's a good thing, but it is. But since I have nothing to report, and since half the planet is on vacation or otherwise doing something useful, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about some things that I've enjoyed recently.

A friend informed me that "CP" is a common abbreviation for child porn. I didn't ask him why he knows this. I assume because he is an undercover craig's list/chat room investigator. However, please reread my Cleveland Park post from a couple days ago with this in mind. It's way better. Really.

A commenter on my post about loser cyclists from a few days ago linked me to Bike Snob NYC, a brilliant blog about cycling in NYC. This guy is my new hero. The blog itself is amazing. Well written, incriminating photos, funny as hell, and intelligent. It's not local but it might as well be. Check it out.

Best T-Shirt EverRoom 11 is now open, and I went with N. last week. I thought it was great. Check out my review on Yelp.

Saw Phish on Saturday at Merriweather Post. Had a great time. I already have way too many mediocre pictures of bands at big venues taken with my point-and-shoot camera so I didn't bother this time. But I did get this picture of what could be the best tee shirt since "For Every Animal You Don't Eat I Shall Eat Three." If you don't get it... just give it a minute. Hilarious.

My bathroom is still not done. All wagers will be paid in full.

The firebox at the corner of my street has not been repainted again. YET.

City TomatoesPicked about a dozen tomatoes from my hippie/ghetto front yard garden. DC tomatoes? Awesome. Accept no substitute. Though having tomatoes in my front yard is great, I feel that it is no match for having your own pumpkin patch as reported by Prince of Petworth. Next year...

The 3rd Annual Columbia Heights Day is next Saturday, August 29th. It promises to be awesome. I will be there at the grill like last year, though I cannot take any credit for planning the event. I've been out of the loop this year due to general life mayhem. But I can assure you based on the chatter, it's going to be great, come out and support your neighborhood festival!

That is all for now. I leave you with this, from a list of funny things that appeared in my inbox a few days ago.

"As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists."

Ahhh ha ha ha ha!! Ummm...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cleveland Park Apparently On Life Support

In another life when I lived in Mt. Pleasant, Cleveland Park was it. While Mt. Pleasant Street has always been a great place to get a pupusa at one of seventeen Salvadorean restaurants, there was (and is) little else there. So I typically went to Cleveland Park if I needed groceries that weren't available from the Richfood corporation. Or about anything else.

I haven't been back there too much since living in Columbia Heights. Here, I still can find pupusas and rotisserie chicken at every corner, but can also buy air conditioners, small-to-medium sized furniture, and snuggies.

The ladyfriend and I were there Sunday afternoon to go to Vace, home of the most fantastic fresh mozzerella cheese on this side of the Atlantic ocean, and also for a trip to Petco. This isn't the first time I've been back, but it really sank in how desolate that place is becoming.

In the short time I was there, the following clear signs of the apocalypse were observed:

  • Whatsa Bagel is now a nail salon. Everything to the left of what once was Whatsa Bagel is shuttered.
  • Seven Eleven is out of business.
  • McDonald's is out of business. I didn't know they ever did that!
  • Starbucks is out of business.
  • There was parking in the access road. Lots of it.
  • While walking from Petco to Vace, I only had to walk in the street once to get around a slow-moving octogenarian.
  • There was no line at Vace. NO LINE AT VACE!!
  • There was no line at Brookville Grocery. Oh - and they charged me $3.79 for a single box of rigatoni, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm telling you, the end is near for Cleveland Park. A word of advice to Palena - MOVE NOW! I would cry if that restaurant ever closed, but pretty soon they're going to be the last man standing around those parts. Get out while you still can! In fact, the only business that didn't look pretty cobwebby was Petco. Though it did smell like wet dog in there.

So what's going on there? Here are some theories about the reasons behind the decline of Cleveland Park.

  • Many longtime CP residents have died off in the last five years.
  • Arrival of DCUSA in Columbia Heights meant Mt. Pleasant residents didn't have to cross Rock Creek Park to buy stuff other than pupusas
  • Whorehouse was shut down, killing nightlife
  • People who used hang out at Aroma finally left Cleveland Park after the smoking ban, and realized that there are bars with people under the age of 35
  • By the time Aroma got the exemption to allow smoking again, you'd already quit smoking and everyone there somehow seemed even older
  • Decision to air Indiana Jones 4 instead of Ironman at The Uptown was last straw for many

Any other thoughts? Damn I wish you could still get a decent bagel in this city.

RIP Cleveland Park! We'll Miss You!

The Firebox Morphs Again!

It Changes Again!Sorry kids, but my obsession with fireboxes continues to be fed, so you will have to endure it some more.

But could it be a coincidence that barely 48 hours after I posted a picture and complained about the awful paint jobs done to our neighborhood fireboxes, that it was repainted yet again?

I appreciate the fact that someone cared enough to do this. I really do. Maybe they read my blog, maybe a supervisor actually came around and saw what horrible work had been done. It's a nice gesture. But I am still going to complain, because this isn't a thank-you note. It's not just the thought that counts.

I am not sure if this is an improvement from the way it was before. While it no longer sports the "not being able to stay in the lines" bad painting from before, gone are the trim details. Gone is the nice gold that was originally there. It still looks pretty crappy. Beyond that, the fire-engine red is rather alarming, and it needs another coat. You can still see the old olive color through the red.

Please - give it up. The damage is done. Someone who cares will fix it again when they get sick of having to put sunglasses on to look in that direction. You simply are not qualified to paint things so please stop trying. I really appreciate that you are trying to do something good. I do. But it's OK. Really. Please don't react to this post by, for example, painting it fuscia. If the painter is reading this, then I'm sorry for being so picky. There are much worse things in the world, sure. I just wish you hadn't painted it in the first place because it didn't need painting.

Also, another observation: apparently up in the swanky part of town, they are being spared from the services of the mystery painters. While driving back down Massachusetts Avenue in AU Park yesterday, N. noticed that the fireboxes are painted really nicely. Kind of like ours used to be. Here's a picture of one, unfortunately from a moving car, but you should be able to get the idea. Nice navy blue with carefully painted gold trim. It looks fantastic. Like ours used to.

au-fireboxNice huh? I'm half expecting that now that the location of a great-looking firebox has been exposed, the paint gang will be dropping by soon...

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Virus Causes Loss Of Self-Preservation Instinct, Apparently Affects Only Cyclists.

I've posted three facebook updates in the last week complaining about reckless cyclists. Then, probably not coincidentally, POP posted about cyclists being ticketed for running red lights. 147 comments and counting. And so this blog post was born.

I drive to work most days, and I walk around my neighborhood a great deal. I have always tried to be courteous and respectful to cyclists when I am driving, if for no other reason, than because I am also a cyclist, and I strongly believe that biking is good for the environment and should be a bigger part of the city's transportation infrastructure.

There have always been vendettas between drivers and cyclists. Some drivers are complete jerks and can't stand having to wait 30 seconds until it's safe to pass someone on a bike. Then there's the infamous bike couriers downtown - few have spent much time around K street without having the crap scared out of them as a courier blows by them without warning, inches away from a trip to the emergency room. But these are generally the exceptions. I've rarely felt like it's really unsafe to bike in the city, and most drivers, while maybe not as courteous as they could be, are reasonably cautious around cyclists.

But something is changing around here and I'm not sure why. I have noticed more and more cyclists completely ignoring the law, and beyond that, acting in a manner that is hazardous to themselves and to others on the road. This used to be the exception. Now it is becoming commonplace. It is one thing for a cyclist to go through a red light when no cars are coming, or ride up ahead of a line of stopped cars. I am not taking a hard line that people on bikes should sit there like cars, even though it's the law. I mean, as pedestrians we do the same thing. It is illegal, but if there are no cars coming, it's reasonably safe.

I'm not talking about technical violations of the law when the coast is clear. I'm talking about absolutely reckless, selfish, arrogant, aggressive riding. Lately, a day has not gone by that I haven't witnessed one or more incidents where a cyclist seriously endagered his or her own life, as well as the safety of others on the road.

This week alone I saw the following on my very brief 15-minute drive to work:

Biker riding the wrong way on my narrow, one way street. This happens all the time, and I understand it, because when you drive, you have to go two blocks north to enter the right way. But if you must break the law then get your ass out of the middle of the road when a car is coming! And when you turn the corner onto a one-way street, going the wrong way, where no vehicle should ever be, please have the courtesy to stop and at least wait a second to see if a car is coming before you turn the corner. Believe me, while I am not looking forward to getting a close look at your face on my windshield any more than you are, in that game of chicken YOU WILL LOSE.

Biker crossing a complex light-controlled intersection (14th and Arkansas) against the light in heavy traffic. Here's the thing about running red lights. I really can't see you if you enter an intersection from a diagonal road, at 7 o'clock behind me, when you have a red light and nobody should be coming from there. You didn't seem to notice how close to death you came when I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting your stupid ass. Believe me, I noticed. Yes, those are my skidmarks on 14th Street that saved your life.

Tailgating. It's not just for drivers anymore! 9:30 AM Sunday morning. Me: In my pickup truck on Columbia Road between 11th and 14th. You: In my blind spot. I barely noticed you because you were 8 inches behind my rear bumper on the right, pacing me exactly. Believe me, some small part of me thought about slamming on the brakes. I am not that guy, though. I didn't do it. But if I hadn't noticed you, I could easily have done that in reaction to traffic or for any other reason. Result from this hypothetical scenario? You, in the bed of my pickup truck. Me, driving you directly to Howard University Hospital.

Failing to yield to pedestrians. I am pretty good about stopping when I see someone trying to cross the street at a crosswalk. Traffic during rush hour on 13th, 14th and 16th Streets is very heavy and I know how they feel. On 16th Street or Georgia Avenue, I'll even straddle the lanes so some jackass behind me can't blow around me while you are crossing. So when I saw this petrified looking old man trying to cross 14th Street this morning, I stopped and gave him the nod to go ahead - I would wait for him. Too bad the bicyclist didn't show him the same courtesy. The cars behind me were perfectly content to wait while he crossed. The cyclist, on the other hand, ensured that this guy had to change his underpants when he got home. He whizzed right past the stopped cars (apparently, it didn't occur to him that there was a reason we were all stopped) and came within inches of the poor pedestrian.

16th Street. I know it's allowed. I know you can ride on any road you want. But are you f*?@king stupid? Why on earth would anyone, ever, ride a bike on 16th Street north of Arkansas? It's a bleeding highway. The traffic in rush hour is insane. And there are many, many alternatives that are not out of your way at all. Hello? 14th Street with bike lane? 13th Street? Beach Drive? The fricking bike trail in Rock Creek Park? How about the 10-foot wide sidewalk on 16th street if you just have to be there? Jesus. Seriously. There is just no good excuse to ride a bicycle in the road on 16th Street during rush hour. Trust me: you WILL DIE if you do this on any regular basis. And while it may not technically be your fault, you will be just as dead. Just give it up and use one of the many, many safer routes.

This is all in the last 7 days. One day I counted five different "busy intersection red light" offenders of the sort I described above. So what the hell is going on? It's really gotten to the point where I am starting to instictively go on high alert every time I so much as see a cyclist, because I am fully expecting them to do something mind-bogglingly stupid. And while I have no problem with stupid people killing themselves, generally, I really would prefer not to waste a half-day with cops and insurance companies if I run over a biker who crossed against the light in front of me. Okay - that's a little harsh, but I am trying to make a point here. I will say it again, bikers. In this game of chicken you will always lose. Please - for your own safety, the safety of pedestrians, and for the sanity of people like me who are having their nerves jangled daily by this idiocy, start acting a little more responsibly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Citizens to Mayor's Summer Jobs Program: Please Stop. We Got It. Really.

Plastered or PaintedIt began with the flyers about the Mayor's Green Summer Jobs Corp. I got one in the mail. That's interesting, I thought. Then, a few days later, I got three on my front porch. And the sidewalk got about sixty of them blowing around. That's ironic, I thought. Especially considering that everyone already got one in the mail, now we're wasting paper to announce a "green" initiative and creating litter. Oh well, there are worse problems in the world.

Then the terror was unleashed. Twice this week we have read on the Prince of Petworth about healthy trees in treeboxes being cut down by the Mayor's Summer Jobs Corp participants.

Now all the fireboxes in my neighborhood have been repainted. Actually, my girlfriend thought that they had been vandalized. The one pictured here at the end of my block is far from the worst, too. If you can't tell what an awful paint job it is, please click for a close-up.

While I have no proof that the Job Corps people are responsible, it seems highly likely. The problem is, they didn't need repainting. Actually, they were beautiful. Operative word being were. They had all been painted in the last year or two, presumably by citizens who put time, effort and expense into making their own streets nicer. Much like the people who plant trees and maintain their treeboxes. Actually, all around my neighborhood, most people do a pretty good job of that. The treeboxes that have anything growing in them at all usually look pretty nice.

All I can say is, thank the stars the summer is almost over and these kids will be going back to school. Or at least not being paid to wreak havoc on the public spaces in this city. Hopefully by next year, we will all be able to undo the damage they've caused.

I appreciate the point of this program. In theory, it's a great idea to give kids something productive to do. I support programs that will teach people useful skills, and give them pride in their community.

So what the hell kind of values do they learn when they cut down new trees and mess up nice things? How are we going to instill pride if we let them slather paint all over something that was previously nicely painted? Would anyone really look at the 3-minute bull-in-a-china shop paint job they did on something that did not need to be painted and say "nice work, kids?"

Part of teaching people to do a job is teaching them how to do it, and teaching them to judge when it needs doing. You can't give kids a set of pruners and a can of paint and say "go at it." I'm not blaming the kids, I'm blaming the program, because it's obvious that there is little or no supervision. Or maybe the supervisors don't give a crap either. But all I can say is I've got three examples of things they've done being more harm than good. Actually, let me be more specific. Each of the three things I've mentioned are all harm and no good. The world would have been better off if they had stayed home.

So please take note, Mayor's Summer Job Corps. We can take care of the sidewalks just fine. We've been doing it for decades, since the city has never bothered before. We got it.

There are a million things that need doing in this city that are a lot harder to mess up. Why doesn't the jobs program tackle things like, picking up trash in the alleys and on the sidewalks? Are you too good for that? Because we all have to do that too. Oh yeah and we have to deal with throwing away the nice trees you cut down and left on the sidewalk also. Thanks. Or how about watering young street trees that desperately need it when it doesn't rain for a month? Oh right - much easier to cut them down. Silly me.

Please. A good idea can quickly turn into a debacle if you don't give a hoot how it's implemented. Considering that every single thing I've read about the impact of this program and the activities of its participants has been negative, I'm sure this isn't just perception. This program is making people angry. We all want to do things to provide opportunities to the youth in this city, but this is not productive.

Yes, I know, a sloppy paint job on a firebox is not exactly a national crisis. But the point is simple. We have a program that is supposed to teach kids something. But all I see them being taught is to not give a crap about what they are doing, and being paid to not give a crap. I guess we're training them to be future DC Government employees.

Below - the best picture of the fire box I could find before it was painted. But it's apparent it was well maintained and nicely painted. The nice gold trim was there before. The sloppy red paint is the "improvement" from this week.

Firebox - Pre Job Corps