Paul-Newell Reaves’
ATLAS: vol.1 Washington, DC

 

 

Great Falls
Embassy Row
Kennedy Center, Sonnet
Jefferson Monument
L’Enfant Promenade
SouthWest Fishmarket
Kool-Aid, H street, NE
Advice, H street, NE
Dave’s Repression Rant
DC Metro Card
Bethesda Skyway
Dead Cat
Daffodils, Rock Creek Parkway, by P st.
Dancing Dupont Circle Boy
A Kiss
Heavy Rain, Foggy Bottom
Redline, 11:53, Springtime
Burning Car, Capitol Hill
Possession, H street, NE.
Dave on Hieroglyphics
DC in Drag
L2, Northbound
Friendship Heights
Redline, 10:05 am
People Watching, Dupont Circle

 

 

The water falls 80 feet― not in one straight drop, but four successive stages.  The first drop is the tallest of the four, the second drop the second smallest.  The third drop has the second most height, and the fourth has the least.

Above the falls the land is flat, but below the water has gained enough force to carve the cliffs of Mather Gorge, extending all the way to Georgetown.

The river is wide, here.  Several outcroppings of rock divide it into chutes and channels.  As it rises and falls with rain and snowmelt, these tiny islands change in size― often submerging entirely.  When the river flows over a large rock, a hole in the water is created.  The kinetic reaction creates a stationary wave.

It is windy, and a Peregrine Falcon floats above the water.  Like a Turkey Vulture, these birds soar on drafts of air, rising and falling without the need to flap their wings.  It coasts across the sky in almost drunken loops, wheeling, circling, searching for prey.

In the eddies at the base of the falls, white― sometimes yellow― foam collects in floating piles.  Though a natural phenomenon, the foam is augmented by pollution, turning this beautiful scum puffy and yellow.

 

 

From the Maryland side of Great Falls, MacArthur Boulevard stretches six miles to Massachusetts Avenue.  Massachusetts runs to the district, and as it comes upon Cathedral Heights neighborhood at Wisconsin Avenue, Embassy Row begins.  The mountainous, Episcopalian National Cathedral conceals long-distance microphones to spy on this stretch of foreign dignitaries.

Virtually in its shadow, still perched on the highest hill in the city, the Embassy of Iraq is cornered.  Down the block lies the Naval Observatory, where the Vice-President lives.  Across from the Observatory, in front of the White and Gold crossed keys of the Vatican Embassy flag, (inset name) stands with his sign denouncing sexual abuse by Catholic Priests.  (insert interview.)

The British Embassy and Residency are directly downhill to the South, one of the largest Embassies in Washington.  Here, along Mass Ave strides a bronze Winston Churchill, holding aloft two fingers in his V for victory sign.

In the Brazilian Embassy― a modern cube of steel and glass― the first floor barely contains a welcome desk and the load-bearing beams supporting the upper floors.  They jut out and hang over the first story in truly minimalist, Bauhaus fashion.

Across Charles C. Glover bridge― spanning Rock Creek valley and the four-lane Rock Creek Parkway― kneels the Islamic Center of Washington.  This grand Mosque of white stone, outer walls inscribed with blue, cursive Arabic script and flowing, blue arabesque stylizations, is fronted by 8 grey pillars in two rows.  This pillared entrance opens onto a glorious, white marble courtyard.  The beautiful structure is topped by a towering and curvaceous minaret.  But the Mejjadin call to prayer does not sound eight times a day in this neighborhood.

Before the Turkish Embassy poses a commanding bronze Ataturk, legs apart, book in hand, jacket swept by the wind.

 

 

The roof of the white marble Kennedy Center outthrusts the thin

golden pillars surrounding it.

Inside, a rich red circulates along the floor, between the mansion

rooms in three gigantic halls.

Washington’s grand temple to culture and art: Verdi, Wagner,

Chopin, Sondheim.

The Opera House, Concert Hall, Eisenhower Theater–opening

night–ten-till-seven–a black-tie affair–

the wealthy and cultured sweep across the floors, in shimmering

gowns and tuxedos.

Who is the Congressman’s date?  Left the wife at home, again.

Oh, look, there—Judith Martin.  She writes the Miss Manners

column for the Post.

She doesn’t shake my hand because we’ve met before.

Encircling the temple in further sheets of white and grey, the balcony

terrace overreaches the Potomac.

North along the river, the spires and towers of Georgetown, while

South,

the arches and abutments of George Washington and Memorial

bridges, spanning the river’s width.

The fog is thick, the landscape disappears.

All three underground parking lots dump onto Rock Creek Parkway

once again.

Across the street, at Riverside Fine Dining and Piano Bar they fix a

mean gin Martini.

 

 

Jefferson looks toward Virginia, his bronze back turned forever from the Tidal Basin, the steps of the monument with their view over Washington’s easily erected obelisque, the Holocaust museum, and the birds that flutter with a tap-tap-a-tap sound low over the water.

The rotunda is a golden, pale white.  I walk down a lane that has been barricaded, sit next to a green construction fence, and for a moment, am alone.  The monument is sinking into the Tidal Basin― a calm patch of water segregated from the river.  The monument is sinking, and they are trying to repair it.

 

 

L’Efant Promenade runs Southwest from Independence Avenue to circular Benjamin Banneker Park, overlooking the Potomac.  A fountain in the center of the rotary spits water 14 feet high to land on a round, sloped base, then trickle to a pool dug in the ground

Were the ugliest building in Washington― the chunky, beige Department of Energy― torn down, L’Efant would boast a view NorthEast of the red brick spires of the Smithsonian Institution administration building.  As is, the view is none-the-worse for its one-directionality, of the thin Potomac channel housing the marina, of Haines Point park peninsula beyond, and of the three-pronged National Air Force Memorial spiking the distant Virginia skyline.

 

 

Down a steep, if narrow hill and across Maine Avenue is the Southwest fish market.  Blue, yellow and red signs― faded and missing letters― read Seafood City, Jessie Taylor’s Seafood, Chesapeake Bay’s Finest Pruitt Seafood.  The smells are of saltwater and fish.

Maryland local oysters, $7.00 a pound; Yellow Perch, $3.29 a pound; three-piece clams from the raw oyster bar, 3 dollars.  Where the customers walk is concrete wharf, but the fish stands themselves float on the river.

Next to the fish market are the three piers of the Washington Marina, and next to this a railroad bridge leading South across the river.  Adjoining is a pedestrian bridge― leading to pricey high-rise hotels.  On this bridge I drink whiskey mixed with water, from the bottle, watching freight trains pass, well into evening.

 

 

“Kool-Aid,” she says.  “And gang.”  The hefty latino returns a nod, passes by the black girl with spiky red hair on his way to the liquor store for a two pack of tall cans, Bud Ice.  Black men trade complex handshakes and short conversations on the street corner― hanging out.  It is not yet 3:30 in the Sunday afternoon on H street, NE, Washington, DC.

“Your a fixture of the community,” Alexis brags to his friend.

“I just moved here,” Kool-Aid answers modestly.  It has been a year and a half since he moved to the house near H street, bringing with him his drumsets and long, loud jam sessions with his reggae-rock band Metrorail.  We would practice in the narrow room with the steel cage door at the back of the house, filling the alley and the intersection with amplified reggae music.  A sign hangs out front of the house, “Metrorail, will Play for Food.”

“What happened to that girl with the kid?” I ask him.

“Ahhh, I haven’t talked to her in a while.  She was staying over here like three nights a week― but I don’t talk to her any more.  She was kinda a hippie girl.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I was working! and she came to the club and was asking me to let her stay over, and I was like, I don’t get off till four in the morning―I was thinking, why are you staying here so much, what’s wrong with you― but she snuck into my club, and I was like ‘Where’s your stamp?’  She was like, ‘What stamp,'”

“Ohhhhh… huhhuh.”

“And I don’t get off till four in the morning, and then I may go party, till like six.  But she was asking me, so I gave her the keys, and I said, you better let me in when I call you.  So I go party, and we get a bag of coke, and I get home and the sun is almost up, and I just want to go in and come down, but I call her and she’s asleep.  And I’m yelling and getting angry and losing my high, and she doesn’t let me in for like an hour-and-a-half.  And she just wants to let me in and go back to sleep, but I get angry, and I yell at her for like another hour, I mean, it’s my place and I let her in, and she’s being all ditzy.  So I’m saying to her, ‘you feel me?'”

“Right.  Hour-and-a-half?”

“So she gave me a handjob and some head, and I haven’t talked to her since.”

 

 

Metrorail practice has just broken up at Kool-Aid’s house near H street, NE.  As I come down the iron stairs out back of the house with the spare drumkit, I pass Harv, one of Kool-Aid’s house mates.  Harv has a thick, grey beard and always dresses in black jeans and a dark t-shirt.  Today he has Foghorn Leghorn on the front.

“Where you going with that?” Harv asks.

“Kool-Aid asked me to store it at my house, I’ve got some room in my basement.  Maybe I’ll buy some sticks and a bass pedal, practice on it a little bit.  Maybe it’ll improve my bass playing”

“You still live with your parents?” he inferred.

“Yeah,” I reply, “it’s free.”

“Hehh, ain’t nothing free.”

 

 

On the top floor of the Hideout, which is what those living there called Kool-Aid’s house, Dave was back on his Repression Rant.

“They’ll get you through our Reptilian Minds, those Illuminati oppressors. They hide behind shadows — the Dginn”— fearful conglomerate amalgamations.  “Before WWII, George Bush’s ancestors slaughtered Poles.  Their factories were never hit by the bombs falling.”

“Well, now, that may be coincidence…”

“Oh… maybe, But, they have access to our ancient, Reptilian Minds the part of our brain that hasn’t evolved in millennia.  When you look in the mirror, they hide on the far side from your reflection.”

“Where do they hide when two people—back to back look in two different mirrors at each other?”

“Well, now, you nevermind that, hahhahha.”

 

 

Black stripes, white, some green
— a bar code—
A blank white space
–A black, white panda in that space,
The number 13.15.

 

 

There are five water features within three blocks of Bethesda, at Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road.  Two green pedestrian bridges stretch across these traffic-crowded avenues to connect thier edifices.

At the Bethesda Metro Redline, an escalator leads up from the trains past a large waterfall.  The water shoots from seven spouts, ten feet in the middle, then three feet less for each successive spout.  The water then flows a whole story, down fifty steps of granite, each two-inches square.

Across the intersection, in a tightly manicured and symmetrical garden, in a small circular fountain, water spurts two feet upwards, falls in a raised pool, then trickles over the edges into another pool dug into the ground.

Behind the Metro fountain, away from the street and intersection, the aqua green skyway leaps across a street emerging from the bus station.  Three popular girls have found a quiet place to talk, here– away from the crowds of BCC high-school, three blocks down East-West highway― at the Terrace cafe, out on their lunch period.

On the other side of the bridge, the space opens to an elevated lawn surrounded by apartment buildings.  There is a daycare playground on the close end, and the third waterfall on the far.  Where a vertical brick wall overlooks Old Georgetown and Edgemoor roads, water goes straight over to fall in a shallow pool with three foot sides.

Beyond this, the second Skyway stretches across Old Georgetown road to a beige and purple shopping complex.  In its courtyard, two more water features, first, another small, circular fountain, and second, a long and winding shallow pool, with rocks jutting up from its bottom.

There is a Pancake House here, and a Caribou Coffee.  A London Tailor, Hair by Paabo, and a small art gallery.  This gallery now displays aerial photographs of farmland.  In one image, fields are arranged Mark-Rothko-like in mismatched streaks of green and yellow.

 

 

The dead cat lies in the bush on its back, next to the sidewalk.  The grey fur shows no blood.  Its mouth is open, exposing how long feline canines can be.

 

 

By the P street overpass, the parkway pulls out from the forested park for just a moment, and this hill lies forever in sunshine.  Spring nears, and this embankment bedecks itself in dazzling yellow daffodils.  Only the foolish flowers are tricked by the annual January thaw into peeking out too early― they are quickly frozen by February.  But by mid March, the rest of these most enthusiastic flowers are radiating yellowness across the bank and the bike path, to the road and the creek on the far side.

 

 

The dancing boy wears tight black jeans with a heavy belt, a short-sleeve collared shirt and earbuds.  His belt holds up several large, metal rings along with his pants.  He twitches his hips and shakes his short cropped, African-American hair.  He is skipping and wagging his butt, raising his arms in the middle of the Circle, up on the fountain ledge, around the circumference of the fountain, then the circumference of the whole circle― more than once.  Perhaps he just got laid, or possibly took some Ecstasy.  Since he is from DC, he may listen to pounding Go-Go music― a solely Washingtonian phenomenon―  or newly popular DC rap.

 

 

The kissers stand― she, with her hands to his face and back against the boarded-up Dupont shop front, he, with hands clasped behind his back.  He is a young man, so perhaps stands this way in innocent– if awkward– enjoyment.

 

 

This morning, the ground is wet from the rain of the previous night.  The forecast calls for more.

After 12, the skies brake, dropping heavy dollops in sheet after sheet that flood the roads and splash on the sidewalks.

She wears short shorts and big maroon rubber boots and a white T-shirt, that, when soaked through revels a blue bra, half cupping her small tits.  Her blonde hair is wet and wavy as she stands in line at the coffeehouse, among everyone else’s heavy raincoats and black umbrellas.

 

 

“Listen,” says a hot Latin girl to her two muscle-y companions.

“What is it?” says the closer one.  She shows him her ipod nano.  He shakes his head.  The train jolts forward and she steadies herself with one hand on his chest.

He grabs her arm above the elbow and they hold eye contact.

She looks away, pats his shoulder.  He maintains his grip on her arm.

 

 

D.C. police and fire officials are investigating the death of a person whose body was found in a burning car in Southeast Washington early Monday.
The victim was Ashley Turton, former chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)  Turton’s husband, Dan Turton is the White House liaison to the House of Representatives.
Fire officials said firefighters were called to the location for a report of a fire about 5 a.m. and found the vehicle ablaze.
They then discovered the body inside.
The SUV was “about seven-eighths of the way” into the garage and was stopped “at a weird angle.”

 

 

“You see, she took the lid off her cup– that gives them probable cause.  When you have one of them Styrofoam cups like here at this chicken joint, the PO-lice cannot make you take that lid off.  But she took it off herself and they then had probable cause to search her bag, and they found the crack pipe.

“Upp, there goes the evidence bag.  Look, they don’t even use handcuffs, anymore– she got her hands zip-tied together.  They come up all sneaky like that and undercover.  There she goes.  It’s a shame, nice lady like that.”

 

 

“This here is Ahmet,” Dave says, hefting the world history book with fake scrawled on the cover.

“A female goddess?”

“No, this is a man.  This over here is Nefertiti, and this the Pharaoh.  They made it like they saw it.”  Pause.

“Look, Ms. Shorty, how tall are you, 5’3?”

“Five foot.”

“Look at how high she comes up on me.  Shoulders, right?  Now look at Nefertiti.  Look at her!  Barely to the waist!  They made it like they saw it.  Ahmet was a giant.”

“Hmm.  Ok.”  Pause.  “You don’t think that just means he was more important?”

“No.  He was a giant.”

 

 

They stroll down 17th st. on their annual Halloween race― men in high heels and dresses– some faster than others– their costumes intended to draw utmost attention, even to outrage.  It is truly a uranian affair.

 

 

Mr. Grey is pulling his bus from the stop, when he stops short.  An aging hispanic man in dusty work clothes runs from across the street and up the steps.  Flashing a grin with wide-spaced teeth, and with a wide arch of his arm, he clasps hands with Mr. Grey.

“I almost don’t catch it.”

“Heyhey– you know I’ll stop for you.”  He pulls the L2 into the second lane and heads North on Connecticut Avenue.  “But this is my last day this side of town.  They’re switchin’ me to the Y8 out of Silver Spring.”

Stop by stop, passengers great Mr. Grey– not by name, but with affection.  He shakes his big beard and nods his pony-tailed head.  “‘Scuse me Ma’am, would you and your boys mind switching to the other side?  This lady needs the handicapped spot.”  He snaps up the seat and climbs back on his chair.

The stairs of the bus flip open and a handicapped ramp unfolds.  A large blonde woman rolls onboard and demands, “I’m going to Military Road.”  She scoots to the open spot, then props her legs up on the wheel well, looking around the bus as she does.

A block from the Van Ness Metro bus stop, Mr. Grey pulls over to wait again.  “Hey, you run good, girl.”  An older-than-middle-age black woman huffs aboard.

“I hate to come so close and not make it,” she manages between breaths.  “Thank you for waiting.”

A few blocks later, it’s a senior citizen Mr. Grey waits for.  To everyone who recognizes him, he tells, “this my last day.  They’re switchin’ me to the Y8.”

The bus climbs a hill and the end of the route is in sight.  “Military Road, coming up.”

“You remembered,” said the lady in the wheelchair.

“I’m surprised, myself.  I can’t even remember to turn the light off in my house.”

Last stop on the line.  The passengers all off, saying good-bye to some, Grey says, “see you over there.”  Perhaps they’ll meet again, on the new line, out of Silver Spring.

“How often do you switch lines?”  I ask.

“Let me put it this way,” he reflects.  “You have the option to change every six months.  I don’t.  I like to see the same people.  ‘Ts why I keep the same wife 47 years.”  I laugh, and he pulls away.

 

 

“When I grew up five minutes from Friendship, there were stores like Blockbuster Video and Booymonger.  A solid grocery store chain– Giant like today, but not so big or modern.  Tiffany’s was certainly still here, Cartier and Clydes”– a high-end eatery chain with gourmet hamburgers and old cars that still run, model planes, but by no means the best steak in town.

A jogger in blue windbreaker climbs the icy hill above the bus depot.  He may be not disguising a limp, or just worried about slipping.

Now the stores gracing Wisconsin Avenue at Western are premium designer and high fashion.  Jimmy Choo, Dior, Brooks Brothers, SushiKo, Saks Fifth Avenue.  That these stores are here says less about Washington and more about changing high-power shopping.  No longer the three-day pilgrimage to NYC or LA to bathe in luxury– hop the clean Metro uptown, or pay to park in the three-level underground lot.  What does speak, here, they chose Friendship Heights, more than half in Maryland’s Montgomery County, over eternally preppy Georgetown, downtown.

Now there’s a Bloomingdales, but Lord & Taylor department store is still here, too.

“Oh, Lord & Taylor was the top department store when I was here in the 70’s,” says a kindly looking lady allowing the grey to show in her off-blonde hair.  She stands in line at he Men’s Department.  “There was a sort of Hierarchy, Woody’s”– Woodford and Lothrup– “was second and Hechts was more at the bottom.  You could get anything, here, it was wonderful.

“There was a Restaurant”– the cafe at Lord & Taylor stayed open until 2009– “shoe repair, travel agency, cleaners.  I would take my kids to breakfast with Santa Claus at Woody’s.  “But you’d have lunch there everyday, have something different.  This was sort of pre-mall, it was all in one place, you’d never have to find another purveyor.  Well, really Garfinckel’s was the top of it all, downtown.  My mother bought her wedding dress that I wore and my sister wore and her daughter wore.

“And Filene’s Basement, of course.  That was about discount”– Filene’s in Mazza Gallerie at Friendship Heights finally closed in 2011.  “The original was in Boston, and women would strip down to their underwear to try stuff on.  It was a madhouse.  My Aunt was always talking about her finds.  But it wasn’t so much of a frenzy, here.  Find a Camelhair Coat like that you’re wearing.  I mean, you had to shop for kids every year.

“There was a lady I passed everyday when I was pregnant.  I assumed she was off the bus on the way to someone’s house as a domestic.  We got to be Metro-walking friends cause we passed everyday, and she had such a warm smile.  It made my day better to say hello to her.  The months went on, and I was becoming increasingly pregnant, and my wrap around was not wrapping around any longer.  And my friend and I never had any other conversation but good-morning.  Then I didn’t see my friend for four or five months– I was busy having my first baby.  But then I was walking again, and her face lit-up with recognition.  ‘What was it?’  ‘A boy!’  ‘Oh, lovely,’ as if it made a difference to her.  I never saw her again.”

There are four high-price jewelry stores in two blocks– though the second largest, Mervis is closing this location– and only four ATMs.  Federal Saving and Loan, a block further up, has its boarded up.  Not with the wealthy, cash, what it once was.

I’m referred to the Manager at Cartier, who is not busy on a Monday afternoon, and happy to talk.  “Well, Tiffany’s sells sterling silver up to the higher end.  We only the higher end.”  The independent jeweler around the corner?  “Oh, I don’t know, you’d have to ask him.  He does repairs, so that is much of his business.  But we all offer different brands.”

Behind a buzz-in door, Adam Keshishian runs his two-story shop.  The show room is a crowded square, opening up to the workroom balcony overhead, with gold-leaf paintings of the Eiffel Tower, the Jefferson Monument and a spiral domed building that could be St. Peter’s church in Moscow.  There are four people in front of me.  “500 dollars for this engraving,” he says with the faintest Eastern European accent.

“Yes, I’ve been here 13 years.  Yes, before the big development.  500 million they put in, last few years.  New England Properties, some of it.  Probably over a billion.  Why here?  Chevy Chase Village, high income real estate, government workers, contractors.

“There used to be a Hulahanns restaurant, they closed down.  And a gas station, I think Shell.  No the customers are nice, educated, not pushy.

“50 percent of my business is repairs, the rest sales.  No the custom designs I include in repairs; it’s mostly the same work.”

 

 

A mustachioed man sits on the Southbound Redline, wearing a striped Polo shirt and kakis.  Over his eyes are thick, dark shades.  He wears no belt.  A faux snakeskin briefcase of black and yellow is clenched in his lap.

The briefcase has more length than a foot between the sides, and is not quite square across them.  The man gets off at Farragut North station and with short, swift, diminutive strides, exits the platform.  This station serves K street, so maybe he heads for high-powered lawyers’ offices, or architects’.

 

 

The street cleaner, clad in shady green, drags his black garbage can and nudges a wet piece of paper with his extended claw.  After two or three manipulations, a fold develops in the center and the twin prongs grab it.

A sharply dressed and spikily handsome — red bow-tie, navy overcoat with brass buttons, pointy shoes– and not remotely flamboyant, young man can tell if one is not gay and averts his gaze as he strides across the circle.

An artist, dish water blonde, red coat to her knees, dirty white sneakers, sketches the fountain and its nymphs.

A forty-something with a playful face, wrinkles barely beginning around her elbows and throat, wears a very short and puffy skirt and red top.  Nice legs, girl!

The weather sings spring, but it is the first of February.  Soon it will be 20 degrees and precipitating.  The homeless man, his bench surrounded by newspapers, jackets, juice bottle also wears red– a hood beneath his heavy beige jacket.

 

 

 

more ATLAS

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