by Borderstan.com — November 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm 0

Thanksgiving dinner (Photo via Flickr/icoNYCa)

Everyone deserves to spend some time with friends and family, which is why we’ll be taking tomorrow and Friday off to observe the Thanksgiving holiday.

So, what is there to be thankful for this year? We asked the question on Twitter earlier this week. Here are some of our favorite responses:

To those leaving the city and those staying within the District, we wish you a happy and safe holiday weekend. To tide you over until our triumphant return on Monday, here’s a rundown of some of the things you should keep in mind until next week.


  • There’s a fundraiser for Garrison Elementary this weekend at Gallagher and Graham and Menchie’s on U Street next Monday
  • Cyclists in plaid will zoom through Adams Morgan on Saturday
  • And speaking of Adams Morgan, be sure to check out Small Business Saturday there and in Shaw for some big deals and special events

Stuff you should know:

  • Here’s a list of everything you need to know about Thanksgiving in the District this year
  • Thursday’s Department of Public Works (DPW) trash and recycling collections will move to Friday. Friday’s collections will be made Saturday
  • Parking meters will not operate tomorrow and will resume service on Friday
  • Metro rail and bus service will operate holiday service on Thanksgiving. Trains will begin running at at 7 a.m. and close at midnight. But no track work!

 Photo via Flickr/icoNYCa

by Tim Regan — November 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm 0

Dupont Santa in window

Thanksgiving is in two days, but the holiday season is basically here already.

Businesses are already airing out the jingle-jangly holiday playlists. Multicolored tinsel and oddly placed red bows are appearing on light poles. Everything tastes like peppermint now. The annual War On Christmas™ debate will soon reach its feverish climax.

Shaw gets a tree-lighting ceremony this Saturday and Columbia Heights has one next week. The zoo will light up on Friday. Snowy holiday window displays are popping up across the city. Holiday-themed improv shows and markets are coming together. Ice rinks are opening.

For some, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s a saccharine capitalist drum beat of buy, eat, celebrate.

What do you think? Let us know in the poll below. And if you feel strongly either way, please yell at us in the comments.

by Tim Regan — November 20, 2015 at 11:45 am 0


If you’re anything like me, walking here makes you anxious.

Crossing where 9th and V streets and Florida Avenue meet is tedious at best, scary at worst. Without a stoplight or a stop sign to slow them down, drivers often speed through the walkway. And although they’re supposed to stop at the crosswalk when pedestrians are crossing, some drivers just don’t, at least not until you step in front of them.

Earlier this week, I posed a question to Twitter: Does this crosswalk freak you out? The responses I got ranged from “yes, always” to one user calling it “terrifying.”

This is hardly a new issue. As outlined by Greater Greater Washington, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has discussed installing a traffic signal at the intersection for years.

Last year, DDOT said the construction of a new stoplight at the intersection could begin between October of this year and May of next year. But as more stores and restaurants open in and around the new Atlantic Plumbing development on V Street, foot traffic at the intersection is bound to increase quickly.

We want to know: Do you think this improvement needs to come sooner than later? Weigh in by voting in the poll and telling us what you think in the comments.

by Borderstan Contributor — November 16, 2015 at 12:40 pm 0

By ANC 2B Commissioner Nicole Mann

Traveling to a foreign country with limited phone and internet service is frustrating to begin with, but the stress is tenfold realizing everyone in the room is checking their cell phones in a panic and you’re left feeling uninformed.

I was sitting in a restaurant in central Paris on Friday evening, on vacation with a friend to get a feel for a foreign culture I had never experienced before. I had the overwhelming feeling that something important had happened when the Parisians at tables around me began to scroll through their phones in nervous whispers, receiving phone calls from friends seemingly all at once.

They were speaking in French, and I didn’t understand a word. I couldn’t stand sitting in the dark, so I switched on my data plan to check the internet against my better judgement.
Immediately the source of tension in the room became clear: there had been attacks in central Paris.

So many different reports were coming in — bombings, shootings, hostages — that, at first, I was skeptical. Surely something had occurred, but often initial reports on Twitter are hyperbolic and inaccurate, so at the time with limited information, I assumed the likelihood of all three reports was slim. I was wrong.

In the next few minutes the busy restaurant had fallen into a nervous dialogue. I don’t speak French, but I could still interpret the conversations: each Parisian was reporting that they were safe on social media, checking phones for updates, receiving calls from concerned friends and family, and rushing to be the first to report new information to the table as the initial speculation became fact.

Bombs had gone off at a stadium outside the central city. There were shootings outside restaurants about a 15 minute stroll from where we sat. And there were hostages held inside of a concert hall not far away.

We paid our check and rushed back to the hotel, flipped on CNN international, and checked Twitter for news.

As is usual with breaking news, Twitter is both the best and worst source to consult. While much of it was informative, just as much was inaccurate. Reports were flowing in about additional bombings and an active shooter at Centre Pompidou and Les Halles – both about two blocks from our hotel, and both of which we had walked by only hours before.

We didn’t believe it – we were convinced we would have heard the commotion from where we were. Anxious to be engaged in the story, we left the hotel to confirm, and walked to both places. They were silent and empty, and we reported back that the speculation was unfounded.

By then, Paris had been essentially shut down by a curfew, a purported first in the city since WWII. But people were still milling about. Emergency vehicles raced down the streets in large caravans every few minutes but otherwise the neighborhood was still. There were active shooters around the city, motives unknown at the time, but no one seemed panicked.

The next morning, with museums closed, we had nothing much else to do but to walk around the city. Our lunch waitress seemed stressed and fatigued but not scared. Some shops were closed, some were open, and some had been adorned by makeshift memorials; a black sheet draped over the door, a black winter scarf tied around a sign.

A salesmen at a clothing store browsing his phone spoke limited English, but asked us if we were American. He showed us a photo of the Empire State Building colored in blue, white, and red.

“Have you seen this?” We had.

“It is beautiful. That this is for us. It is lovely. We appreciate it.” His words were genuine; he was not fearful or shaken. Rather, he seemed resolved, proud; he had had his store open all day.

I told him we had appreciated, too.

That night we visited the memorials at each of the affected sites. Crowds of mourning Parisians were littered with news trucks and live shots, but the Parisians ignored them. The mourners were subdued and quiet.

Next to the memorial near the concert hall where hostages had been taken, a neighborhood bar was open — and packed! The crowd at the bar was so large, it had spilled out onto the sidewalk, but they weren’t sitting at tables sipping beers. Instead, they were standing and drinking in large masses, laughing and loud and tipsy and noisy and excited as though watching a sports game.

Fifty feet from the candlelit memorial, the news crews, and the blood-spattered street, Paris was still alive. I think that was the best way I could ever have experienced French culture.

Nicole Mann is an ANC 2B commissioner. Follow her on Twitter here.

by Tim Regan — November 13, 2015 at 11:30 am 4 Comments

Atlantic Plumbing renderings(Updated at 12:29 p.m.) Have you heard the news? Shaw isn’t just Shaw anymore.

Earlier this week, “a healthy mix of journalists, tastemakers and culture vultures” gathered atop the newly opened Atlantic Plumbing Company building at 8th and V streets NW to raise their glasses and toast the official unveiling of a new neighborhood, “North End of Shaw.”

But what is North End Shaw, anyway — besides a hashtag and an unused Twitter account? Much like its ever-growing older brother Shaw, the area seems to have loosely defined edges.

If you’re Atlantic Plumbing, North End Shaw is a “bustling epicenter of creativity” and a neighborhood that’s “transforming into one of Washington D.C.’s hottest destinations.”

If you’re Washingtonian, it’s “a made-up neighborhood name that [developers are] using to distinguish their new development.” (Which is kind of the norm around here, points out Topher Mathews, who runs Georgetown Metropolitan.)

So, let’s put it up to a vote. What do you think? Is “North End Shaw” a valid neighborhood name? Do you think it should be called something else? Weigh in by voting in the poll and telling us what you think in the comments.

Photo via JGB

by Borderstan.com — October 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

Bei Bei, photo courtesy of National Zoo

Do you like the National Zoo’s prized new panda, Bei Bei?

Be honest.

Do you care about that panda? Do you care when it sneezes? Do you care that it now weighs nearly 10 pounds? Do you watch the panda cam at work? Do you care about it? Do you? Do you?

We had a thought this morning — perhaps a little more panda coverage on Borderstan wouldn’t be a bad thing. Perhaps you’d like to be updated as the panda cub matures into a much larger panda … creature. Perhaps you’d like to read about when it tumbles through the snow for the first time or when it meets a major celebrity.

Then again, perhaps you’re sick of hearing about the panda. Perhaps you think the panda is a nuisance in your newsfeed. Perhaps you’d rather see less of the furry little ball.

So, let’s put it to a vote. Panda yeah or panda nah? You tell us. And if you feel especially passionate, let us know why you feel that way in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of National Zoo

by Tim Regan — October 28, 2015 at 10:20 am 0

Thousands of people lined up along 17th Street NW to watch racers in costumes and heels sprint for the finish line during last night’s 17th Street High Heel Race.

Television news crews, Dupont Circle business owners and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Councilmember Jack Evans were also in attendance to see the super-sized spectacle.

So, who won? According to the race results, Tasha Salad won the day by sprinting across the finish line in 41 seconds. But Esmerelda and Urtethra Franklin were close behind — both racers finished just one second later.

Photos by Borderstan and Luis Gomez

by Tim Regan — September 4, 2015 at 4:15 pm 0


Lucky us: We’re taking Monday off to celebrate Labor Day.

To those leaving the city and those staying within the District, we wish you a happy and safe holiday weekend. To tide you over until next week, here’s a short roundup of some of the things you should keep in mind this weekend:

If you take any photos of your relaxing holiday weekend, be sure to send them our way. We may feature some reader photos in a post next week. Send your photos to [email protected] or tweet them at us.

And we’re out! See you all on Tuesday.

by Tim Regan — August 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm 1 Comment

Every night at sundown, two blindingly bright sodium-vapor lamps illuminate a corner near the intersection of Vermont Avenue and U Street NW.

In the hot summer air, crowds of laughing bar-hoppers and restaurant-goers in shorts and flip-flops shuffle past. The corner is bright and vibrant.

But just a few months ago, that corner of the intersection was much darker — in the literal sense.

“For a long time, this was kind of seen as a forsaken corner,” says Andre Esser.

Esser, along with Sheryar Durrani, owns and manages local business U Scoot, a scooter rental shop and dealership that opened at the intersection in June.

“This corner always looked sort of sketchy,” says Esser. “You had people panhandling that I had to chase off, people out here loitering all the time. I don’t know the crime statistics on this corner, but I’m sure there have been crimes here over the years.”

Esser, who also owns Redline Motorsports in Takoma Park, had a plan to change all that. Before opening his scooter business, he mounted two powerful lights on the building.

“Turning on the lights makes it a brighter corner,” Esser says. “Thieves don’t usually tend to hang out on bright corners.”

Esser also hired two plainclothes security guards and installed over $10,000 worth of state-of-the-art surveillance equipment.

“The cameras and lights aren’t just for our own personal protection, especially the lights,” says Esser. “I feel like if I’m going to have a business, then it needs to be a safe corner.”

Esser says D.C. Police were glad when he installed the cameras.

“They came up to me right away and said, hey, are those good cameras? Can we have access to them?” Esser recalls “And we said absolutely. It’s for everybody’s safety. We want to assist the police department with making this a safer corner.”

In his two months of running the business, Esser says he’s helped to aid police by recording and turning over footage of three crime incidents. Just last week, U Scoot’s cameras caught a hit-and-run as it happened.

“Hopefully we’ve detracted from some of the crime,” says Esser. “That’s the goal. It’s not to just catch it. It’s to deter it from happening.”

Even when he’s at home, Esser says he sometimes uses an app on his phone to watch the cameras late at night. But he’s not only only watching out for scooter thefts.

“I’ll be having dinner or playing with my kids and I’ll peek in and make sure everything is okay,” Esser says “I’m kind of like Big Brother, but looking out for this corner at nighttime.”

“If there’s a car accident, if someone’s assaulted, if someone’s car is broken into, we’ll see it,” says Esser.

“[A] person might steal a bicycle,” he adds. “Or that person might shoot someone. That person might mug someone. That person should probably be off the streets.”

Photo of U Scoot at night courtesy of U Scoot

by Jared Holt — July 28, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,175 0

Step inside an elevator at the Ring Building south of Dupont Circle and you’ll find a relic of the past.

Each weekday, a small troupe of elevator operators transports more than a thousand people up and down a 12-floor office building.

It doesn’t take a local historian to know that elevator operators are rare in D.C. Most, if not all, of the other elevators in the city are operated by the users themselves.

But the Ring Building, built in 1947, may be the last public office building in D.C. that employs elevator operators, apart from the U.S. Capitol.

Visitors to the Ring Building will always find at least one operator working, no matter the hour or day. (Full disclosure: Visitors to the Ring Building will also find Borderstan’s office.)

Would it be more cost-effective to use an automated system? Probably. But 49-year-old elevator operator Cleveland Johnson says his profession has more to do with sentimentality than efficiency.

According to Johnson, the man who built the building, Gustave Ring, made the job permanent as one of his final wishes.

“It was one of Mr. Ring’s wishes on his deathbed that the building always have elevator operators,” says Johnson while making eye-contact through his reflection on the polished door. “It makes it feel fancy.”

Operating the elevator is more complex than it would seem. To change floors, operators must press a floor button, then tug on a brass lever to close and open the elevator door. There are also three switches to control the light, ringer and air inside the elevator.

Ascending or descending inside the cars can sometimes feel like an amusement park ride.

“If [the elevator] was a car, it’d be stick, not automatic,” Johnson says.

Johnson adds that elevator operators at the Ring Building are actually licensed for the line of work, and that he was required to take a three-minute test about maximum weight capacity and occupancy. Still, Johnson says his job isn’t too involved.

“There’s nothing to it, really. It helps if you’re not claustrophobic,” he says with a laugh. “And good hand-eye coordination helps, I guess. That’s pretty much it. It’s not rocket science. The hard part is dealing with peoples’ personalities.”

A group of young men dressed in khakis and button-downs and loaded with carry-out food from a neighboring restaurant step inside the elevator. Johnson selects the seventh floor, closes the door and sends the elevator lurching up.

“I know a lot of people’s floor and I don’t know their name,” Johnson says. “It goes both ways. Sometimes people see us and sometimes they don’t. People get used to us being there and they just zone out.”

Johnson has worked at the Ring Building for seven years and said he makes about $1,700 per month after taxes. He estimates that he travels up and down the elevator shafts more than 200 times during each eight-hour shift.

Though there are rumblings that management plans to install new, automatic elevators in a couple of months, Johnson is confident he’ll have many more years to hone his button pressing and lever pulling.

“I don’t think they’re just gonna toss us out of here,” says Johnson.

by Jordan-Marie Smith — July 17, 2015 at 11:45 am 1 Comment

Gordy and Miles

While wandering around downtown or near Dupont Circle you might catch a glimpse of a puppet in a red shirt and a man playing guitar.

Gordy Walck is the man with the guitar.

The puppet in sunglasses is Miles.

On a Tuesday afternoon, Walck sits with Miles on the corner of 18th and M streets NW.

Walck’s shoulders and mouth are pointed at the ground. He sways as his fingers strum a guitar.

Miles, Walck’s knee-height companion, sits next to him on a bench. While Walck sways and sings, his partner’s wooden lips and eyebrows move with the words.

“He had a hundred dollar price tag on him and I thought, ‘you know what, I’m gonna try that [and] see if I can make this work,” Walck says about the first time he “met” Miles.

It wasn’t ventriloquism that brought the 62 year-old Gordy to D.C. from Seattle, Washington to D.C. in 1992. Asking Gordy what exactly drew him to the city elicits a groan.

“That’s a long story,” Walck says with a chuckle. “Let’s just say I tried to effect a change. Let’s just say that.”

It’s unclear what kind of change Walck wanted to make, but he’s brought smiles to people downtown over the years.

Watching him on a sunny Tuesday, a few men in suits smirk at Miles before continuing on their way. Walck’s open, velvet guitar case only has a few dollars in it. He says making a living as a street performer isn’t as lucrative as it used to be.

More people carry credit cards now, and that means Walck is often met with an audience fumbling for change in their pockets and coming up empty, he says.

Walck says he could easily earn thousands of dollars on the street when he started out. Now, times are a bit tougher and it’s not just the city’s love for credit cards.

“Some towns respond differently to different things,” Walck says. “A friend of mine who’s traveled the world said that ‘if you had this act in Chicago, New York, Manhattan something like that,’ he says it would really go.”

That’s because art is treated differently in D.C. and a higher level of sophistication is much more appreciated, Walck says.

“Some of these players have instruments that are not something you’d commonly see on the street and they do quite well,” he says.

But for a ventriloquist like Walck, times are tough.

He lost his house in Mount Pleasant almost a year ago, partly because two defective amplifiers left him down $4,000.

“It was a great place to live, the neighborhood was calm, there was no crime there,” Walck recalls.

Now, Walck says he doesn’t have a roof over his head.

Losing the amplifiers meant less income, and less income meant Walck had to dip into his savings to keep Miles in working condition.

Rather than sleeping, Walck says he spends time keeping his equipment in working order — and keeping it charged.

“When someone’s indoors then they can plug in to charge and get [some] sleep,” says Walck. “In my case, I have to kind of catch it as I can, charge it at a location or an outlet and then I have to stay awake so it doesn’t get stolen,” he says.

But in the end, it’s worth it to find a sense of purpose, Walck says.

“I give the world a little bit of levity and lightheartedness,” says Walck. “That’s my intention.”

by Tim Regan — July 2, 2015 at 1:55 pm 0

“FIREWORKS TNT FIREWORKS,” reads the sign above Mi Casita Bakery, a Mexican and Salvadoran cafe on 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights.

Inside, the eatery is busy and hot.

“No, we don’t sell fireworks here,” sighs the man behind the counter. “We do not sell fireworks.”

The man sighs again, as if to say he gets that question a lot.

“But Mattie does,” the man says, pointing to the wall behind him. “She’s out back.”

Mattie McLain’s head barely emerges from behind the counter of her plywood fireworks stand. On first glance, the hut looks uninhabited.

Although hidden, McLain is there. Sun or storm, the 78-year-old has manned the firework shack each summer for more than 20 years.

Every afternoon, a small crowd of children gathers in front of the stand. With a smile, McLain doles out pop-its, sparklers and party poppers for a dollar apiece.

Earlier this week, the stand was discovered — and subsequently written about — by PoPville.

“Seems legit,” wrote one commenter sarcastically.

“The [person] who runs the fireworks stand has had [their] stand on that corner for 30+ years,” writes another. “The nice folks at [Mi] Casita don’t have to let [them] continue the tradition, but they do.”

But McLain doesn’t just own the fireworks stand. She also owns the building that houses Mi Casita.

“I’ve owned the building 40 years,” she says.

McLain used to run a grocery store and deli out of the space, but she closed the deli 10 years ago.

“I just got too old,” McLain says. “Now, I sell fireworks. It keeps me busy.”

Over the years, McLain has gotten to know her neighbors well.

“The neighborhood has changed a lot,” says McLain. “But a lot of the same people are still here. I know them.”

“Each year around this time, they look for me,” McLain says with a laugh. “Everybody says, ‘Where’s Mattie?'”

McLain often says she doesn’t know how much longer she’ll sell fireworks. But she’ll run the stand as long as she can.

“I’m old,” McLain says. “Too old. I fell this morning.”

“But I can get up,” she adds.

by Tim Regan — June 15, 2015 at 10:00 am 0

Rainbow flags lined the the streets in Dupont and Logan Circle as the city celebrated during last Saturday’s Pride Parade.

Though D.C. activated its heat emergency plan earlier in the day, thousands of people turned out to celebrate the occasion.

Atop decorated floats and on foot, revelers traveled the 1.5-mile parade route to hand out candy, beads, T-shirts and the occasional high five. This year’s theme was “Flashback,” and many in attendance donned colorful costumes meant to evoke past Pride celebrations.

And plenty of people wore speedos.

Did you see anything worth sharing? Tweet at us or let us know on Facebook and we might add it to this post.

by Tim Regan — June 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm 0

Pride Parade 2013

We’ve had a big couple of weeks here at Borderstan. And we’re about to have a big weekend.

We’re happy to announce that we’ll have a spot in this year’s Pride Parade on Saturday. We’ll have plenty of staffers on hand to pass out some nifty new Borderstan T-shirts.

Check out the parade map here, and you can follow us on Twitter if you want our location. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

by Tim Regan — June 1, 2015 at 9:00 am 4 Comments

Good morning. Borderstan is back.

We probably look a little different than you remember. That’s because, in April, Local News Now LLC, the publisher of ARLnow.com, acquired Borderstan from founders Matt Rhoades and Luis Gomez. Since then, we’ve worked with Matt and Luis to map out how we can build upon what locals loved about the site the first time around.

And based on what we’ve come up with, we think you’ll be pleased.

Moving forward, we plan to cover everything Matt and Luis did well, from arts and entertainment, crime and politics, to local businesses and dining. We’ll also add to that mix up-to-date breaking neighborhood news coverage in a large swath of Northwest D.C., which includes the areas around Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, up to U Street, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights.

Our site editor is Tim Regan, who has covered local news, restaurants, oddities and the arts for Washington Post Express, Washington City Paper and Thrillist, among others. He’ll occasionally be assisted by Andrew Ramonas, the editor of our sister site, Hill Now, Local News Now managing editor Bryan Doyle and a stable of stalwart freelance contributors.

Have a suggestion? Want to contribute? Drop us a line at [email protected]. Or, if you have an idea for a story we should write, call our tip line at 202-930-3546 to leave a message about what’s going on in your neighborhood. Be sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook, and check back with us frequently. We’ll be updating the site daily.


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