Thursday, April 30, 2009

It’s not the White House...

...but now I can say I’ve lived on 16th in Washington, D.C., just like the Obamas (they live at the intersection of 16th and Pennsylvania), who also happen to be former residents of Chicago just like me.

Tonight is my last night in my first home in D.C. For the past six weeks, I have been living on my own as a temporary bachelor in a tiny, one-bedroom studio apartment. It has its own full bathroom (with a shower only) and a small kitchen area (with just a two-burner hotplate). It’s a room in a large, three-story house where several other people live in small rooms too, I’m sure (I’ve never seen the other ones), although I think they use the common kitchen on the first floor, which has a full stove with an oven.

This place is located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, which is largely filled with immigrants from Central and South America. So I’ve heard a lot of Spanish spoken these last weeks. The way I like to describe my location is that if I get on my bike and ride directly south for exactly three miles, I run smack-dab into the White House! It’s so cool to live in a city and in a neighborhood where I can go just a few blocks and see the Washington Monument and have the White House come into view.

It was strange that I ended up on this very street as my first residence in this city because it’s where some other members of my family – three generations of them – have started out and/or lived. My great aunt (my grandfather’s sister), who lived in D.C. for decades (from the administrations of FDR to George W. Bush!), lived in a grand old apartment building called the Chastleton a couple miles south on 16th with her mother. When my own mother was young (younger than I am now), she moved with her sister from Seattle to D.C., and they moved in to this apartment with their aunt and grandmother. Later they would get their own apartment in this same building, and my mother would meet my father, and they would get their own apartment in this same building. I think this is the story of who lived where and with whom, but if I don’t have it all right, suffice it to say there was a lot happening in this one building with previous generations of my family, all on 16th, the same street where I happened to have ended up when I first landed in this city to start a new life.

Today this building has been renovated and is now all condos, with each selling for upwards of $176,000. It’s in the hottest part of town, mere blocks from Dupont Circle.

My parents were married at Grace Lutheran Church, several miles north, but also on 16th. This is the street where everything happened, and the same is true today. We have an active new president who is marking his first 100 days in office today, and from a busy White House down there on 16th, he and his family have established themselves in this city and have gotten down to business in these first 100 days, planting a new garden, modernizing the Easter Egg Roll and sneaking out from their home to try some of the restaurants in town.

Tomorrow I move to my second temporary residence, a larger place that can accommodate three of us, since Sarah and Lexi will join me here at the end of next week when they come from Nairobi. We’re renting the first floor of a house in the Brookland neighborhood in the northeastern section of the city. It’s in the shadow of The Catholic University. We’ll be there at least through the end of August.

I’m a bit sad to be moving away from my neighbors on 16th – the Obamas. But further adventures await in a new part of the city – parks to walk to on summer evenings, a Franciscan monastery to retreat to, and a college campus with a bizarre shrine to our country’s patron saint, Mary, Mother of our Lord. It’s all a testament to how interesting this city is.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I did for Easter in New York City

This isn't a post about happenings with all of us in Nairobi/Kenya/Africa, since I, Stephen, am now living in Washington, D.C., while Sarah and Lexi stay behind in Nairobi until Sarah's work contract is finished in early May.

Since I am here alone, I went up to New York City for the Easter weekend to see some friends and family. For the last few years, my brother Andy has been making artistic costumes and hats for the various parades that NYC has throughout the year (for Halloween, Easter, etc.) from Metrocards, the fare cards that the city's subway system uses.

So on Sunday afternoon, I gathered with him and a group of friends to be in the Easter parade, which is actually just a big street party where people show off their creations, mostly around St. Patrick's Cathedral. The New York Post TV unit interviewed us. You can see me, my brother and a friend in this clip about three-quarters of the way through. My brother is talking, and I'm wearing a hat in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge.

This is the story that goes with the video:



In an Easter bonnet, with yesterday's frills upon it.

With the economy in the tank, recycling was on the minds of many who stepped out on Fifth Avenue yesterday for the Easter Parade.

For example, a Florida woman, Molly Churchill, 47, was dressed up as a giant Easter Cake, which was made by her husband, Mark, 48.

"We had this costume from another parade. It only cost $100 to redecorate it for Easter," Mark said. "We're recycling. It's very economical. It was a very small expense and the costume amazes people."