Day 28 – Sputter

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I sputtered through Wednesday. I’m not sure I saw or did anything terribly different. But I did notice a new pace.

I met up with a financial advisor at a new coffee shop. Bread & Brew was a bust, the cafe part at least. It was hot from the oven, the tables were kind of dirty, and the whole place felt disheveled. Talking to a financial advisor was new, and a little depressing. Growing up is hard, and new questions beget new things to think about. #NegativeNancy

I took a long, slow walk home, even though it was 85 degrees. At least I was adjusting my pace so as to see more in the neighborhood. I wandered through Dupont and Logan, looking at houses split in two. Developers must have literally cut originally large homes in half and painted a line down the middle of the exterior. I had never really noticed that.

I was making my way to The Coffee Bar in Logan, a great spot I blogged about earlier. It was closed by the time I arrived, so I ambled up to U Street and opted for frozen yogurt instead. Menchie’s isn’t new to me, nor is the concept. It is a little…whimsical though, if you can avoid throwing up from all the neon and sugar.

A few other landmarks or interesting places caught my eye. In reality, though, it was a pretty routine day. In fact, the really new opportunity I had was the invitation to attend a black tie gala celebrating Georgia Independence Day. The country, not the state. But I had to back out at the last minute.

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By the time I arrived home, I had seen a few new sights, walked a slower pace, and reflected a bit more than usual. Maybe that, in itself, is a shift due to this 30 day challenge. Routine, everyday things like a walk home can be approached in a different way, loosening up my thoughts and perspective, whether life changing inspiration strikes or not.

Day 27 – Start a New Job

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Ok, the new job was in the works before I started the 30 day challenge. But this gig has aspects that are pretty new for me. The organization has only five employees. Everyone works virtually. Weekly staff meetings take place at Open City Diner.

After today’s meeting, I asked my boss, “So, what would you like me to do?” His response: “I’ll send you some emails, and you’ll figure it out as you go.”

Usually I am uncomfortable with up-in-the-airness. At age 22 I took Hebrew, a language that is translated pretty fluidly. Words and phrases can mean several different things, and there are several possible answers. Some of my classmates loved the flexibility. I did not. I wanted to learn the rules, apply them, and then spit out a tidy English sentence.

Fifteen years later, I am trying to take a different approach. I’m waiting and seeing. I’m diving in and feeling the water as I go. I’m looking for peace in the midst of uncertainty and not rushing to judgment.

One step at a time. Easy does it. Such basic life lessons and an invitation to trust.

Of course, I will come to a point that I lose my zen and hate the flux. I will exhaust my expertise and still need to give more. Yet, I think there will still be the invitation to trust and to learn, to fail and to start again.

I wonder if this could be a spiritual experience, depending on how I go through it. What might it look like, to be open to a deeper current stirring in everyday events? I guess there is only one way to find out.

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Marilyn welcomed me to the corner
of 
Connecticut and Calvert this morning,
next to Open City Diner.

Day 24 – Amble Anacostia

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I ambled through Anacostia yesterday afternoon. I’ve only been east of the river once in 9 years. That’s ridiculous. My perspective on the city needed to be shaken loose.

I walked from the metro stop along MLK Boulevard, passing tons of storefront churches, barber shops, liquor stores, and small markets. Closer to the Big Chair I saw a few signs of development–art galleries, a Capitol bike share, a sit-down restaurant. I turned east onto Good Hope Road to find a business incubator/art gallery, sandwiched between a cash checking place and two tax preparers. A half mile further, I turned onto back streets, passing St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and the Frederick Douglass site. I wound through residential areas until I landed back on MLK Boulevard.

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Anacostia seems an honest to God mixture — leafy streets with historic homes and blighted roads full of rundown houses; churches on every corner across from drunks and liquor stores on the other; neighbors talking on porches and silent, deserted streets.

Of course, I stuck out in my Cape Cod shorts, knit shirt, and messenger bag. A few people said hello but most ignored me. Two teenagers looked me over as we passed and concluded with, “Hello, sir.” I said hello back, but I felt dumb. Why? I didn’t want to be the white guy out of water, gawking or fawning my way through a neighborhood where I was clearly out of place. Neither did I want to be rude, brisk, or ignore the people who were letting me be tourist in their slice of the city. What a silly mental game. I’m sure that’s something every person of color has to deal with constantly.

I ended at Union Town Bar & Grill. At 4pm, there were just a handful of customers scattered across the bar. I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic and a little food. While I was watching the baseball game on TV, my head was sorting through why I felt so self-conscious. How much is about race? How much is about class? What does it mean to walk these streets as a tourist, taking pictures for a blog? Am I thinking too much? Probably.

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Anyway, a guy two seats down struck up a conversation, asking if I lived in the neighborhood and then why I would come to Anacostia. “Well, I’ve lived in the city for a long time and never really been east of the river. I wanted to see more of the city.” He seemed satisfied with that and went on to tell me about the sites in the neighborhood that I should see, the lack of city resources, a salty story about Marion Berry that happened in the bar, and his feeling that Anacostia gets ignored by most of DC. I’m glad he talked with me because I wouldn’t have gotten a local perspective without him.

In the end, all my inhibitions were silly but probably not surprising. Despite all my liberal ideas and feelings, there was no way I could go somewhere actually different, and avoid feeling clumsy. Yet, despite all that, grace happened when a stranger was willing to talk to another stranger. And probably that awkwardness itself is a grace, a sign of things to reflect on, an invitation to get outside my bubble more often, a recognition of the fraught history that impacts our interactions with people who are different.

Great afternoon. Just not what I expected.

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Day 22 – Eat a Hot Dog, Reflect on Life

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At 11:30pm I started a late night bar crawl with Andrew. We met at Ivy & Coney, a dive bar in Shaw, that serves hotdogs, beer, and whiskey. That’s it. Over an IPA and a Chicago-style dog, we caught up on the last few years.

I’ve known Andrew just short of a decade, longer than anyone else in DC. It’s remarkable how much has happened and changed in that time period, and our friendship bears the marks like rings on a tree trunk.

We ended the night at the Gibson, a speakeasy serving craft cocktails. Two drinks in, we were reflecting wistfully on growing older, parents, relationships, and the frustrating seduction of living in this city. DC breaks your balls and gets under your skin, and yet you like it. It knows you, your best self you put forward and your worst self you try to hide. In that way, it’s like a marriage, if you’re willing to stick it out.

Anyway, at one point, the bartender approached Andrew with deference to ask a question about the computer system. Andrew is a general manager at the sister bar next door, and he rattled off the answer with authority in his voice. At the end of the night, we left the bar with a free shot and a nod of respect from the bartender. Managers drink on the house.

Ummm, what?! I remember Andrew as the 20 year old I first met, who lived in a dorm and shunned all oppressions and indignities like management. How did he become an almost-thirty-year-old telling people what to do? And how did I become that guy who reflects on the passage of time during a night out? I might as well have showed off some scars and reminisced about the war.

New places, new drinks, new places in life. Old friends, old stories, and despite the changes, still the same people in many ways. What a surreal combination of old and new for a Thursday night conversation over gin and rye, and a hot dog.

thegibsondoor Mixologist Jon Harris of The Gibson - Washington, DC

Yet More Coffee

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P.S. I did try a new coffee shop today. La Colombe is in a hard-to-find, around-several-corners, surely-it’s-not-back-here location alleyway near the Convention Center. No signs. So you feel like you’ve discovered a secret just walking in the door.

Clean, airy feel, with large open windows. Laid back vibe. Good coffee. Interesting porcelain mugs and saucers. Pretty good prices for fair trade coffee. Nice spot for a first date, which was the (rare) occasion for me.