Tell you what: I’ve lived in Capitol Hill, off and on, for 32 years. Now it’s time to hit the trail, take off, pack it in, ship out, shove off, shake a leg, make like a baby and head out, amscray, beat it, scoot, split, blow this popsicle stand, clear out, push off, make tracks and kiss this clip-joint goodbye. I’ve got my reasons, not least of which is the ridiculous cost of living here.
High rent is a serious diversity-killer, driving out such endangered human subspecies as people on fixed incomes, members of the working middle class and struggling artists. Pretty soon, the sole residents will be billionaires and techies in the 30-40-year-old range. That doesn’t make for a very interesting neighborhood mix, particularly seeing as how the techies only stay a year or two before moving on. You can’t build a community on that.
I’m not sorry to be leaving, as nearly everything I loved about living here is gone. But, since this is my last column, I thought that this time I’d write about Capitol Hill’s good points, for a change.
It’s still got some trees left, for instance. Not all of them have been cut down in the interest of maximizing views and charging higher rents. (Personally, I’d rather look at trees than construction cranes, but to each his own.) I still mourn the loss of a particularly majestic maple, though. It used to shade the sidewalk in front of what is now The Bellagio, previously characterized in this column as the future world headquarters for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I guess KFC HQ doesn’t really need trees. Most birds need them to roost in, but chickens can’t fly.
Half-Price Books… No. That’s gone. Sorry.
The B&O, beloved landmark and unique restaurant that…Wait. We haven’t got that one any more, either.
The weather. Some of us like rain and clouds and seasons that actually change. If only the people who don’t like those things would move to Arizona, we might be able to bring the rents back down, re-legalize free street parking and try to recover socio-economic diversity.
The Deluxe. That’s still up AND running AND doing quite well, judging from appearances. The music can be irritating, but the wait staff will turn it down, if you ask them nicely. The rib-stickin’, unpretentious fare ranges from good to exceptional, and there’s a fireplace, for warming cold bones on chilly, wet nights.
It’s hard to believe that Spin Cycle is actually a new business. The proprietors are so hip, laid back and thoroughly grounded in their subject (vinyl records, audio tapes and DVDs) that they seem to have stepped out of Seattle’s golden age (1985–94). If I were staying, I’d hang out there a lot more, listening to stories about the great bands and soaking up the atmosphere. Strange times, when a whiff of yesteryear hits us like a breath of fresh air. No; more like a blast of oxygen on the moon.
Harry’s Fine Foods. This is another new biz. A vibrant little restaurant, created from a dismal old corner grocery store, with yummy ambience and daring new spins on classic old dishes. Customers can also buy farm-fresh eggs and artisanal breads at the counter, and the centrally placed, communal trestle table is reminiscent of the late, lamented Surrogate Hostess.
I must end this on a sour note, though. After all, I am known as the urban curmudgeon. So here’s something from the back of my idea closet:
Some years ago, as I was writing at home, my concentration was shattered by a loud, angry voice exploding outside the window: “Lucy! What did I say? What did I just say?!” This was followed by silence, and if the woman was waiting for Lucy to answer her, she is waiting there still. Because Lucy was a dog.
What sort of person questions a canine? The sort that has trouble with species recognition. If not for objections from the authorities, Lucy would probably be enrolled in school, taking clarinet lessons, wearing braces on her teeth and playing on a soccer team. Odds are, she owns a pink backpack, sleeps in a dog-sized four-poster bed and wears pajamas with fairies on them. People like Lucy’s owner shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs. Though it may keep them from interacting too much with the rest of us, it’s really not fair to the dog.
And then there is the person with two small, angry beasts, who walks them, every day, past my window at the same time another dog owner walks his dog. The little guys go ballistic, every time, snarling and yapping at ear-splitting decibels, while their owner stands there, going “Shhh!” Most dogs, including these, will not respond to shhh, and yet this person does this, every. single. time. After a lengthy bout of sustained yapping and shushing, she starts shouting “Stop it!” This has no effect, either. Many dogs will, in fact, respond to a direct command, but it doesn’t just magically happen. They have to be trained to do this. That’s what obedience classes are for.
Dear dog owners, this may not have occurred to some of you, but other people will judge you by the way your dog behaves, just like they do when you use a leaf blower, or drive around with your window down and the bass on your car stereo cranked to 11. And while stupidity is gaining acceptance in national political circles, in this part of the country it is neither widely admired, nor tactfully ignored. Except of course, by other idiots.
Before I leave this subject and this neighborhood, I must mention the person who regularly frees her dog to crap in my building’s communally shared backyard. Perhaps she thinks it’s not trespassing, as long as she remains out on the sidewalk. In any case, the woman is never able to get her dog to return to her, afterward. She stands there, endlessly repeating the name Marley, in mounting frustration. Her dog ignores her, and gambols happily among the grass and excrement piles to his heart’s content. Eventually, they do go away, and while I await this happy moment, there is ample time to ponder: Why has this woman named her dog after Scrooge’s business partner — a damned soul, everlastingly bound in chains — when the four-legged Marley isn’t even kept on a leash? Maybe she appreciates the irony. Or perhaps Marley does.
On that cynical note, I bid a fond and final farewell to the Capitol Hill-that-was. And for those of you that remain, Good luck. I’m afraid you’ll need it.