by June 14, 2013 at 10:00 am 0


Quency Valencia at Bang Salon U Street. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Quency Valencia is an outspoken young man. He still remembers when he was getting paid $8 for a haircut and the problems he had speaking English. Those days are far from forgotten but he has since become a well-known hair stylist at Bang Salon U Street, where he’s been working for the last three years.

His clients have become his friends, from the local neighborhood customers to those that come from The White House for his services.

This Sunday, Valencia will be in Las Vegas providing his professional hair styling expertise and his specialized makeup services to the current Miss DC, Allyn Rose as she competes in the 62nd Miss USA Pageant.

“In my profession,” Valencia said. “You see and deal with many important people, much more in a city like DC. I have learned to be even more discreet than what I was.”

The Long Road to Becoming A Stylist

Like many in the city, Valencia is not from DC . He has lived here for 10 years and he’s been a stylist for over 13 years, but he hails from San Cristobal, a border town in Venezuela. He began working in San Cristobal, then lived in Punto Fijo, Venezuela. Next Valencia worked in Aruba training make up artists and hair stylists. With a will to grow and the drive to look for better opportunities, Valencia ended up in Virginia, where his brother and sister live.

Valencia began working as a barber at a salon on Glebe Road trying to perfect his skills – at the time he did not regularly cut men’s hair. Valencia used that time and work as an opportunity to learn and after four years there, he found a job at VLS Hair Design on Connecticut Avenue. He eventually moved on to Bang Salon where he currently works and is recognized as a professional hair stylist.

“At Bang Salon, we are always updating ourselves with styles and fashions a season ahead,” Valencia said.


Quency Valencia and Allyn Rose. (Courtesy Quency Valencia)

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by April 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]


Yandura poses with a glitter portrait the Art Enables staff made for him. (Eliza French)

“If it’s totally screwy, weird and bizarre, I’m going to buy it,” said Paul Yandura during a recent, candid collectors’ talk at Art Enables. Yandura, a longtime Borderstan resident, has been collecting art for 15 years.

Yandura’s approach may have been haphazard at times, but following his instincts led him to collect some of the most distinctive and compelling works of outsider art. The recent Glitterbomb exhibit, composed entirely of pieces from Yandura’s collection, proves that even this small segment of his collections is greater than the sum of its parts.

As outsider art achieves mainstream popularity, Yandura continues to seek out untrained and self-taught artists.

Borderstan: Have you lived in DC since you graduated from George Washington University? Where have you lived in DC and what attracted your current neighborhood?

Yandura: I came to DC from Los Angeles in 1994 on the Dale Ride Scholarship, honoring Dale Ride the father of the recently deceased first female astronaut Sally Ride (who also came out in her obituary). I was attending Santa Monica Community College in Los Angeles when I received the scholarship, and then, when my White House internship turned into a job, I decided to finish my political science degree at George Washington University.

It was a bit surreal working for the Clinton White House and leaving work to attend political science classes that were academic discussions on how politics and power works. I have lived in several places (16th and U, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan) in DC, but my partner, Donald, and I have been together over 15 years and have lived for the last eleven in a 100-year-old house in Columbia Heights. We recently had a house history completed and found out that the home was previously owned by Carrie Nation’s lawyer.

Borderstan: When did you first become aware of outsider art and folk art, and how did you choose to focus your collection? How do you feel about the growing awareness and popularity of outsider art within the art world?

Yandura: I became aware of outsider, self-taught and folk art about 15 years ago, by accident. I was turned off by the obnoxiously rude and arrogant behavior of gallery staff and was invited to the New York Outsider Art Fair and several independent shows of undiscovered artists. I was blown away by the art and by the accessibility to the artists. I think a lot of that has started to change now that it is becoming more commercialized and many of the older outsider and folk artists have died.

For many years, I would travel to the artists’ homes, many in the south, to meet them personally and to see the breadth of their work — and their process of creating art. As you can imagine, the growing popularity can be a double-edged sword. Creating a market for outsider art can have negative effects and artists, especially those with disabilities who can be taken advantage of. On the other hand, artists with disabilities can now have rewarding careers as artists.

Borderstan: How do you find pieces to add to your collection? Do you have direct relationships with the artists? 

Yandura: I keep a sharp eye out for new finds, but I also am always searching for new pieces from artists I have already collected in the past and to find new undiscovered artists. I have a wide network of friends and fellow collectors who share information on new finds, and I am always watching out for the twice yearly outsider art auction.

I have gotten calls from complete strangers saying, “I don’t know anyone else who would understand or want this piece of art, so I was wondering…” and usually what they have is amazing and completely misunderstood or undervalued for a number of reasons. […]  I have lots of direct relationships with artists I collect, and actually prefer that to buying without meeting the artist.

Borderstan: What is the most unexpected way you have encountered a new work of art you decided to add to your collection?

Yandura: There is a homeless man in DC that has created schizophrenic art for years in and around Dupont Circle. When I saw a piece of his art I asked him if I could buy it and he told me that he does not sell it because he does not deal with or believe in government created money. For years I tried to convince him otherwise, and then one day a friend saw him hang a piece on the wall of a metro station and leave it. My friend grabbed it and brought it back to the office as a gift.

Over the next five years I was able to find two other pieces he had created and left around Dupont Circle. I don’t know his name and I paid nothing for the three pieces but one of them is a favorite piece of mine. I can’t tell you what it is, why he made it or anything else about the pieces, but I love them just the same.

Borderstan: You have had a remarkable career in government and politics, and as an advocate for LGBT rights, not to mention your public affairs firm, Scott + Yandura. I’m interested in the intersection of your career and your passion for collecting art. Can you tell me about Art+Works+Wonders? 

Yandura: I think the intersection has to do with my passion for human rights advocacy, and I would include self-trained, outsider and disabled artists [in that]. I like to break the rules and force the majority to respect other points of view and to see the world different then they have previously.

I wish I could be more “go along to get along,” but I am not blessed with that attribute. Art+Works+Wonders is a foundation I created to help promote and respect self-taught, disabled and outsider artists. I have not done much with the foundation yet (I am too busy collecting!) but hope to do so in the near future.

Borderstan: I would also like to hear more about your involvement with the art community in DC. I know that you are on the board of Art Enables, that you often loan works to be featured in shows, and that you have opened your home for people to view your collection in the past. In what [other] ways has collecting art enabled you to become more engaged in the art community?

Yandura: I have not been heavily involved in the art community in DC, although I look forward to more involvement. I have enjoyed collecting on my own and with a few close friends who are also collectors, but the Glitterbomb show is really the first time I have been so public about my collecting and my collecting rationale and thought process.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to understand my obsessive collecting habits and to ponder many questions that have been posed by visitors to the show. Many I have not stopped and considered prior to the show. Many others I still don’t have answers for.

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by March 6, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

From Kathryn Ciano. Follow her on Twitter @katciano. Email her at  kathryn[AT]

WhyFoods.(Courtesy Kat Ciano)

Sarah Waybright from WhyFoodWorks.(Courtesy Kat Ciano)

DC has become a major food city. Within a one mile radius you can get pizza in various stages of preparedness, at least 22 types of mussels, and beer — goodness, so much beer. But what if you want to save money, eat healthier and learn to cook for yourself?

Enter Sarah Waybright, entrepreneur extraordinaire, walking New Year’s resolution and, hands-down, the coolest girl who ever made me a massaged kale salad. Ah, Sarah’s massaged kale salad — but that’s a story for another day and another book of sonnets.

The idea behind WhyFoodWorks is simple. Sarah comes to your kitchen and makes you dinner — not like a personal chef, but like a personal nutritionist, ready to explain exactly what food you need and how to prepare it, all in the course of a dinner party.

I sat down with Sarah to talk about her blog, her business and her relationship with the Borderstan community.

Borderstan: So explain exactly how this dinner party idea works.

Waybright: I provide a healthy, delicious effort-free dinner party. I bring the ingredients, the food, the pans and blender, the silverware, placemats,  EVERYTHING — all I need is your stove and sometimes a microwave. All you have to do is invite your friends. I even take the dirty stuff home with me, so there’s no clean up for you, which is unarguably the worst part of hosting.

Parties are for four to eight people; that’s the best size for good conversation and it lets me talk to everybody and answer their questions. And that’s what you’d plan anyway for a dinner party, to get the right vibe.

Borderstan: What kinds of food do you cook?

Waybright: I always have five menus available for selection. One of them will rotate monthly and the others seasonally. You can choose whichever menu you want. There are already a couple of dietary considerations taken in — one menu is vegetarian, one is gluten-free, one is dairy-free, but I can also take into account allergies and intolerances — I can replace items without compromising nutritional integrity.

The key is that I’m offering healthy options I know are delicious and that I know I can teach you to make well for yourself.

Borderstan: How did you get started on this?

Waybright: I’ve been doing dinner parties since college. I grew up on a dairy farm, as part of a big family, so I’ve always had people over, with lots of focus on good conversation and good food. In college I wasn’t thinking about nutrition as much as whether the food looked and tasted nice. Since doing my Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, I can make things delicious and beautiful, and also a meal that’s actually good for you.

When I first considered launching the business, I looked to see whether anything like this already exists. I found personal chefs and meal services, but NO ONE else is teaching home cooking with a focus on health IN private homes.

I want to teach people to do things that they’ll actually use again. Hiring a professional chef doesn’t teach you how to cook for yourself. You’re probably not going to make fancy food on a regular basis, and some chefs charge so much. One I found in the DC area costs $500 for a two-person in-home class. I want to reach out to people who aren’t part of this elite group that can spend $500 on a chef for the night. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Fresh, simple, and cheap ingredients can be delicious if you know what you’re doing.

Borderstan: Tell me more about this cheap, healthy food.

Waybright: For parties I keep things at a price that’s reasonable for what you expect to spend eating out at a nice restaurant. I’ll even do wine pairings, for an additional $8/person, which includes two glasses of wine per person, plus education about wine and nutrition.

The food will be delicious. It will feature techniques anyone can do, and you’ll have an opportunity to ask whatever questions you want. I’m a nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian (RD). It doesn’t take much to call yourself a “nutritionist,” but RD’s all have at least a Bachelor’s degree in the subject, have completed an internship, and passed a standardized national exam.

Borderstan: What’s your philosophy on food?

Waybright: I’ve boiled down my eating concept into a few basic principles. Any diet works — paleo, vegetarian, whatever — as long as you’re applying these principles. When I do parties, the point is to show people how easy it is to apply these principles to every meal.

A lot of times people think about food like there are “good foods” and “bad foods,” like cookies are off-limits and everything else is okay. But that’s just not true; it’s all about amounts. At dinner parties I talk a lot about food pairings — what foods work best to maximize nutrition together. For example, my February menu includes bacon, but I serve it with an oat risotto, and the fiber from the oats prevents absorption of all of the cholesterol in the bacon.

It’s important to appreciate how our bodies process food. People know that eating a high-fiber diet is good for their cholesterol levels, but they don’t know why. At the end of a dinner party, I don’t want people to be focusing on their colon necessarily. Intestines aren’t very sexy. But if they never think about their colon, then this can be that special opportunity.

Borderstan: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Borderstan and the community?

Waybright: This is a 100 percent woman-owned business — it’s just me. I live in northern Borderstan, and I’m constantly out and about around here — I bought a brick at Saloon, to support their efforts to build schools in impoverished places, and I work at the Columbia Heights Farmer’s Market. I really believe in community. I’m hoping this business spreads mostly by word of mouth. The blog is to get awareness out there and really develop a community base, and the website gives more info about how to book a dinner party.

One of my goals is to do a 10-to-1 ratio: For every 10 parties I book, I’ll do one for a population that can’t afford a party or education about nutrition, or donate a party for a charity.  My first donated party will be auctioned off at the Chris4Life Eat4Life Celebrity Chef Cook-Off on March 19. And I work with ScratchDC; they take the leg work out of from-scratch meals and deliver them to your door, and its customers get a discount for my parties, too.

I also want to build loyalty into my plan. Hosts of a dinner party get 50 percent off, then if that person hosts a second party they get 75 percent off, and the third party for the same host will be free. If a guest tells someone else about it, all of that person’s guests will get $5 off.

The feedback from parties so far has been FANTASTIC. I loved working with the guests, and I think they felt the same way. Some of what they said were the “best” parts really surprised me — like after dessert, we all sat around and talked nutrition. I wasn’t even thinking of that as part of the experience, but that was something everyone commented on as being so valuable. I love doing this, and I just can’t wait to do more.

To schedule a dinner party, please fill out the form here, or contact Sarah at 202-505-2396 or sarah[AT] Find FoodWorks on Facebook at WhyFoodWorks, 
Twitter at WhyFoodWorks andPinterest at WhyFoodWorks.

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by January 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0


Chuck Harney of the Bike Rack. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with Bike Rack owner Chuck Harney to chat about business, the neighborhood and biking in the city.

Here’s what he has to say.

Borderstan: When did you start Bike Rack and what was your inspiration for beginning the business?

Harney: The shop opened in May 2007. I actually wrote the business plan in 1997. My inspiration came from being a cyclist and living in a part of the city that was not served by a shop. Personally, I was also inspired by my desire to own my own business.

Borderstan: Do you live in the neighborhood?

Harney: I live in Adams Morgan

Borderstan: When did you move to DC?

Harney: I moved to DC from Los Angeles in 1991

Borderstan: What about this neighborhood made you chose your location?

Harney: Our current location was not my first choice. However, as development in the Logan Circle area began to take off, it seemed like a good idea to be as close to 14th Street as possible.

Borderstan: What can customers expect from your business? 

Harney: In my opinion and experience, our customers can expect a really friendly and knowledgeable staff, absolutely no attitude and we do not look down on anyone, a clean and attractive store stocked with the items that our customers tell us they want through their choices and feedback, a high level of community involvement and professional and expert repair service.

Borderstan: Do you think DC is a biker friendly city? Why or why not? 

Harney: I do believe that DC is a much friendlier city toward cyclists than it has been before at anytime. I also believe that it will continue to become a friendlier city toward cyclists in the future. This is the result of local leaders who believe that DC can become a “cyclist’s city” and to local groups and organizations who continue to lobby for things like bikeshare, bike lanes, bike parking, education for cyclists and motorists, alike, and an enforcement of motor vehicle laws in regards to cyclists.

Borderstan: Where is your favorite place to bike in the city?

Harney: I am not big on riding in the city – I like to ride out of the city and keep going. However DC has a lot of great hill climbs, and of course there is Hains Point where I can be found knocking out a 40k time trial on a hot summer morning.
Borderstan: What is your best advice for someone either interested in starting to bike or just getting into biking?

Harney: Come see me.

Borderstan: Where’s your favorite place to hang out in the neighborhood? 

Harney: That’s a leading question, I dont want to upset anyone, so I will say that I love the entire neighborhood, there is no bad place to hang out.

The Bike Rack (1412 Q Street NW) is open Monday though Friday from 8 am until 7 pm, on Saturday from 10 am until 6 pm and on Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm.

by January 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]


Sarah Watkins from Caramel Fashion. (Courtesy Sarah Watkins)

Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with boutique owner, Sarah Watkins, to see what’s hot in the fashion world.

After growing up in a family business environment, Watkins always hoped to open her own business one day. And she did just that when she established her boutique, Caramel, at 1603 U Street NW in 2006.

In addition to running a business in Borderstan, Watkins also lives in the neighborhood and has since 1998. Here is what she has to say on everything from operating her own business to neighborhood restaurants and even Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day outfit.

Borderstan: What was your inspiration for beginning the business? 

Watkins: I drew inspiration for the store from my grandparents who owned and operated independent grocery stores for over 40 years. The store is even named after my grandfather’s favorite candy, Caramel.

Borderstan: What can customers expect from your store? 

Watkins: At Caramel, we are always focused on providing a welcoming space and excellent customer service. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that Caramel is a boutique! Being a boutique doesn’t mean over-priced items and a superior attitude. We love being a part of the U Street/Borderstan neighborhood and we want people to feel comfortable in the store.

We encourage people to stop by and browse our men’s and women’s clothing selections by small, unique, independent lines and jewelry by local designers. We feature work by local artists throughout the space, with opening receptions where all are welcome to attend. We also host fundraisers for local nonprofits and trunk shows with local designers.

Borderstan: What styles do you anticipate for this Spring? 

Watkins: Stripes and fluorescent colors will be popular this spring, as well as modern style twists on looks from the 1960s. For the office, pencil skirts are the way to go. Don’t be afraid to wear white, as it will also be right on point this spring. Stripes will be popular for men this spring. Military-inspired styles will continue into spring, and you will see a lot of primary colors on the racks at your favorite clothing stores.

Borderstan: What did you think of Michelle Obama’s outfit choice for Inauguration Day? 

Watkins: Michelle Obama looked absolutely gorgeous in her Thom Browne coat. It was tailored beautifully for her, and the belt and gloves were perfect accessories for the outfit.

Borderstan: And here’s the question we ask everyone — What are some of your favorite places to hangout in the neighborhood? 

Watkins: The Borderstan neighborhood has so many wonderful restaurants and small businesses. Some of my favorites are Rice, Masa 14, Floriana and the doris-mae gallery.

Caramel is open Thursday and Friday from noon until 8 pm, Saturday from 11 am until 7 pm and Sunday from noon until 6 pm.

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by January 10, 2013 at 10:00 am 0


Nicole Aguirre of Worn. (Jaime Hurst)

From Jamie Hurst. Email her at jamiehurst[AT] . Follow her on twitter @highheeldtravlr

My interest in writing for Borderstan stemmed from an interest in getting to know the great citizens of our community here. Who are the people that work, live, and play in our fine city? First up, Nicole Aguirre, founder of Worn Magazine and co-founder of Worn Abroad talks to us about how she showcases the Washingtonian art, music, and fashion scenes as well as where to find the best Chana Masala in Adams Morgan.

Borderstan: Tell me about Worn Magazine and Worn Abroad?

Aguirre: I started Worn Magazine in 2009, and it was because I saw this vacuum for a local fashion and art publication that was really highlighting what was going on in the creative community in DC. I had all these fantastic friends doing all really creative things. That was my world in DC versus the political government world. I wasn’t seeing any publications, print publications specifically, covering that and really lifting it up and celebrating it as a real movement in the city. So I decided I would give it a shot myself and that’s where it started. I applied for a young artist grant from the DC Commission for Arts and Humanities and got it. So then after that there was really no turning back!

So we did one issue, then another, then another, now we are working on our fifth issue starting this week, which will come out in early April. Then last year I teamed up with Eric Brewer, who is the founder of an organization called Dandies and Quaintrelles. We’ve been friends for years and started a company called Worn Abroad. It’s under the Worn umbrella except it’s an e-commerce online retail company that sells clothing from designers all around the world, inspired from [global] street style. So we started off our first three months with pieces mostly from Asia and some U.S. designers and are slowly expanding inventory to include other parts of the world.

Borderstan: I like that you are bringing new fashion to DC but staying within a certain influence or style.

Aguirre: That’s the idea, to give access to styles that aren’t easily accessible in DC, starting off, then across the country as well.

Borderstan: Tell me a little bit about your perception of DC style. There is this running joke that DC has no style, but it obviously does. There is a huge art and music community here, and creatives in general.

Aguirre: DC style is still really forming itself. I think that a lot of the creative elements in the community that you mentioned like, music, art, and theatre have been growing really quickly and have started to define themselves. I think that fashion is sort of the one that’s still sort of lagging, still trying to catch up. But it is moving forward, very quickly, actually. One of the events that really showed me that was Georgetown’s Fashion Night Out last year.

A lot of people talked about how many individually stylish people came out to that event. It was sort of felt like a coming out, a real arrival of DC style. Eric and I thought that it was the perfect time to be in DC and starting a retail company because people are really hungry for that style and I think people are ready for it.

Borderstan: I know I am! So what made you want to establish your business in the Borderstan area?

Aguirre: Well, when I first moved to DC in 2005 to go to GW I lived in a small studio on Columbia Road and 16th Street NW. I would ride my Vespa to campus in Foggy Bottom everyday which for GW [George Washington University] student was a really long commute, but that made me get to know the area really well.

After that I lived in Dupont for a while, then moved back to Adams Morgan in 2007 when I moved into this space. I just think it’s the perfect location because everything is really accessible, like you have shopping and restaurants… and 18th Street is now starting to shift, too. I moved here with the idea that the neighborhood was in transition and was going to evolve. And I love how diverse this neighborhood is in general. There are Indian restaurants, the Ethiopian community, and families with children.

Borderstan: I agree. That is what is appealing about Borderstan, everybody’s here. It’s a melting pot.

Aguirre: Exactly, and it just so happens that DC is so small that your friends are always like, oh I live a block or two blocks away.

Borderstan: You don’t have to go very far! What are you favorite places to eat and shop in the area?

Aguirrre: One of my favorite places to eat in Adams Morgan is Himalayan Heritage. It’s at 18th and Kalorama. It’s incredible!

Borderstan: Any recommendations?

Aguirre: The Chana Masala because its gluten free and vegetarian! When I get the chance to get out of my studio, I like shopping the 14th Street boutiques.

Thank you so much, Nicole! You can purchase Worn Magazine online here and shop the Worn Abroad collection, for men and women, here.

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by November 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,773 0

Josh Kramer.  (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

There are so many creative people who live in Borderstan. This week we spoke to Josh Kramer who gave us an insight on his work, and passion as a cartoonist and journalist living in the city.

Josh will begin contributing to in the next couple of weeks.

Borderstan: Tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Kramer: I’m a cartoonist and I’m a journalist. I go out and report on people doing interesting things and then I make that into a comic in what you might think of as a graphic novel style. I publish these stories along with others by similar artists in a mini-comic anthology called The Cartoon Picayune. I live in Kalorama near Adams Morgan and also have a non-art full time day job.

Borderstan: What led you to start drawing. What kind of education do you have? 

Kramer: I’ve always been interested in drawing, but I was never the compulsive doodler in class. I only got serious about learning to draw when I was a journalism student at American here in town and realized I wanted to be a cartoonist. After graduating I headed to Vermont for two years and got my M.F.A. in cartooning at The Center for Cartoon Studies.

Borderstan:What inspires you to draw? Fill us in on that!

Kramer: I’m lucky to work in nonfiction and be able to take real people and things out in the world and try to put them right onto the page. Every speech bubble I draw is a direct quote and every character is a real person. I have so many inspirations in the worlds of comics and journalism, including Joe Sacco, Kate Beaton, John McPhee and Ann Friedman. All worth Googling.

Borderstan: Why are comics and illustrations important? How do they convey information?

Kramer: I think comics can make powerful journalism because they can really create a powerfully empathetic experience with the reader. Comics can be fun to read and visually engaging, all while pulling you into a journalistic narrative and maybe telling you something new about the world or yourself.

Borderstan: What have we missed… what would you like to add?

Kramer: The last decade or so has yielded an exciting new world of graphic novels and comic books, both nonfiction and fiction. Please, don’t be intimidated, there’s great stuff everywhere, including your local library and your favorite bookstore. If you want a good recommendation, I’d love to help you find something.

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by October 23, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,439 0


Meet Khelan Bhatia and Adam Koussari-Amin, the two D.J.s behind DC’s latest ’80’s dance party. (Photo credit: David Claypool/Kalorama Photography)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with two new-ish neighborhood D.J.s who are bringing back the ’80’s in a modern-sort-of-way.

Khelan Bhatia and Adam Koussari-Amin are the two musician masterminds behind BreakfastClub, an ‘8o’s remix dance party held at Duplex Diner. This Friday, October 26, Bhatia and Koussari-Amin will host a Halloween-themed Thriller dance party at 9 pm.

Luckily for us, we had a chance to catch up with the D.J.s before the big night to discuss BreakfastClub, their favorite music and the District D.J. scene.

Borderstan: How and when did you guys first get into D.J.-ing? And when did you start working with each other?

Khelan: I started by creating playlists for myself and friends. Before
long, I was my friends’ go-to-guy for providing music – usually
through my iPod —  at parties and other gatherings. I D.J.’d my first 
set about two years ago at Duplex Diner on a Thursday evening, their 
busiest night during the week. In all honesty, I was a nervous wreck. 
I thought I was going to screw up pretty badly. Well, I must have managed to 
do OK because they keep inviting me back!
 Adam and I met a few months ago through mutual friends. We first
 worked together in mid-August at a party called CTRL, where Adam is a regular D.J.

Adam: My experience began in college where I was part of a hip-hop dance troupe at UVA. As a choreographer, we had to cut and edit our own music for our shows. In terms of live performances, beyond friends’ parties, CTRL was my kickstarter at the beginning early this year. I had been watching my friend Jeff Prior perform some great sets at bars and clubs in the area, and we decided to throw our hats into the ring for a monthly party… And I am so glad we did, because its ongoing success has given me a lot of opportunities, including connecting with Khelan.

Borderstan: One of your main D.J.-ing events is BreakfastClub – How did you come up with the concept for this event and how frequently do you host it?

Khelan: After I guest DJ’d at CTRL, we lamented that DC doesn’t have a regular 80’s night…at least, to the best of our knowledge. After going through a few ’80’s-inspired names, Adam and I both thought that BreakfastClub fit pretty well with what we wanted to convey, especially as we wanted to host it at Duplex.

Adam: In order to make sure it stood out, we had the idea to incorporate remixes of ’80’s songs, in addition to the originals. Not only does it ensure that our catalog of songs never gets stale, it also puts a fresh feel on a ton of songs people have heard before. Songs that were once “head-nod” worthy only are now “break it down on the dance floor” awesome.

Khelan: We’ve only had one BreakfastClub so far, but due to continued interest, we’re going to try to make it a monthly event. The next one is this Friday, October 26th. Since Halloween is right around the corner, it’s going to be Thriller-themed. Costumes more than allowed (hell, they’re encouraged!).


Adam Koussari-Amin of BreakfastClub. (Photo Credit: David Claypool/Kalorama

Borderstan: Where are some of your favorite places in DC to D.J.?

Khelan: Duplex, obviously. They’ve got a great vibe and a wonderful staff. Kevin Lee, the owner, has been incredibly supportive. I’ve also D.J.’d at Dahlak, Saint-Ex’s Gate 54, L’Enfant, and most recently, at Town.

Adam:  I have to give love to Dahlak on 18th and U. It’s where CTRL is hosted. The staff is super friendly, the drinks are strong, and the space is intimate, which lets me and the other D.J.s stay ground-level with the crowd and really interact with them. It’s also got a lot of history in terms of events that have started there…and a lot of great memories for me of being on the other side of the booth.

Borderstan: What is your favorite thing about D.J.-ing?

Khelan: To be able to contribute to the mood of a party… and make people dance.

Adam:  The crowd reaction, bar none. The minute you play a song that everyone instantly loves, or even just gets that thumbs up or scream from a random person for a more obscure song, it’s an awesome feeling.

Borderstan: What is your favorite music to play and how do you go about making a playlist for a party? Can you tell us a bit about the process? How long it takes, how it evolves, etc.?

Khelan: I love electro, synthpop, hip-hop, french house, ’80’s pop, indie…you name it. If it’s got a beat, I’ll find a way to work it into a set. Putting together a setlist can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks — it all just depends. I try to guess, in advance, the mood of the party or event and tailor the set to the best of my ability. Before the first BreakfastClub, I started putting together the set a month or so before the event. Mostly because I’m a blend of a type A Washingtonian and nervous wreck.

Adam: Khelan’s a bit more methodical than I am… blame it on being a New Yorker. I usually start a week in advance collecting three times as many songs as I need and cram up till the last minute, whittling them down into something that the audience will hopefully appreciate. Timing is super important for playlists…things that get people jumping after midnight when they’ve had a few cocktails might actually turn them off if you play them at the beginning of the night.  I’m pretty happy playing everything except country – sorry country fans – so long as it makes people dance. I’ve been told I tend to shy from top 40’s — even remixes — and play slightly more obscure songs, no matter what the genre. I want people to discover new music for themselves when they go out.

Borderstan: What are some of your favorite things to do, or favorite places to go in the Borderstan area?

Khelan: Borderstan is definitely the best part of DC. I love just wandering through some of the side streets with a coffee from Peregrine in hand and my iPod on full blast (at this rate, I’m probably going to be deaf by my next birthday). Long-time Borderstanis know that I love fashion and live music. Rue 14 is still my favorite boutique but I love going to vintage stores like Treasury too. For live music, 9:30 club is easily the greatest venue in the country while U Street Music Hall is the greatest club. And I’m (not-so) patiently waiting for the re-opening of DC Noodles… best comfort food. EVER!

Adam:  I’ve been in the city for five years, but moved to the 16th and U area about two years ago… it is such a fantastic place!  I love working out or laying out in Meridian Hill park, grabbing weekend bottomless brunches — Masa 14 is life — and catching local comedy and improv shows at Source Theater and other local bars. Most importantly, I live to go out dancing with my friends… especially if it involves us on the speakers at DC9. I’ve also been told I have an unhealthy addiction to Lauriol Plaza and have dragged almost every friend I’ve had there.

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by September 27, 2012 at 10:00 am 4,843 0


Jay Newton-Small. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

The streets of Borderstan are rich with journalistic talent. Previous Borderstan People profiles include Julie Mason of Sirius-XM radio fame (Politico and newspapers prior to that), Harry Jaffe of the Washington Examiner and Washingtonian, Sommer Mathis of The Atlantic Cities (and former editor) and Mike DeBonis with the Washington Post (by way of the Washington City Paper).

Today’s interview is with Jay Newton-Small, currently a foreign affairs reporter for Time magazine and a resident of the Dupont-Logan area. She has also covered general politics as well as the White House and the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

Borderstan: We are interested in your residence history, especially as it shapes your view of Borderstan. Tell us a bit about where you were born, and where you grew up. Where was the most memorable, or the most challenging, or enjoyable? How does Borderstan compare? What do you miss about the latter, and what do you love (or hate — be honest!) about the former?

Newton-Small: My parents were both United Nations professionals. My mother was Chinese-Malay and an international lawyer working mostly for the UN Conference on Trade and Development out of Geneva. My father’s Australian and spent most of his career crunching budgets for the UN Development Programme.

They met in Zambia, married in Malawi and had me in New York. We lived all over — spending time in 10 countries across five continents. What was my favorite place is a common question. Bumping around that much is hard for a kid: you just are getting to know a language and culture and make some friends when it’s already time to go. But in retrospect, I realize I’m lucky to have had these life experiences.

The better question would be: What was my favorite time and place? The world, especially the developing one, changes so quickly. Everything you once knew can be replaced in a matter of months. My favorite time and place was Malaysia when I was 17. That Kuala Lumpur lives as a bubble in my heart. All my friends have since scattered and virtually nothing remains of our favorite haunts — indeed the entire city center has since been moved. For lack of being able to revisit it physically, I rely on photos, certain recipes (smell is a powerful reminder!) and reminiscing with friends. So, that’s my very long answer to your simple question! Can you tell I’m a magazine writer?

Borderstan: Living abroad with Foreign Service parents, I can understand how you came to your current profession, and to DC. But what brought you to Borderstan in particular, and what kept you here?

Newton-Small:  This is the first home I’ve ever owned and, really, the first time I ever lived alone. I travel so much that it doesn’t really feel like I live here full time — or it hasn’t until recently. It took me seven years to finally unpack the last of my boxes and paint the house! Nesting is a process, but I’m getting there in fits and starts. I love Borderstan because a) my office is a 10 minute walk and b) every time I come home there’s five new places on 14th Street to discover. It has the perfect mix of static and motion.

Borderstan: Being a Congressional correspondent, one might assume you would have chosen to live on Capitol Hill — any particular reason  you didn’t?

Newton-Small: Since January I’ve covered foreign affairs for Time and before that I covered politics in general. A lot of that was the Hill but it was also campaigns — I covered the Kerry and Obama campaigns in 2004 and 2008 — and the White House. So, I bounced all over from the Hill to the White House to Iowa and New Hampshire. These days it’s the State Department. I just got back from a trip to Iran. In that sense, Borderstan is very centrally located between everything!

Borderstan: While we know you are incredibly busy, what are some of your favorite Borderstan spots for drinks, coffee, dinner, to get a good book or have a meeting?

Newton-Small: We moved offices a couple of years ago but we used to be located just above Tosca on G between 11th and 12th. I got to know the chef — Massimo Fabbri — pretty well. So when Massimo opened Posto on 14th, I immediately became a barfly. I meet a lot of sources there and half the time bump into colleagues from the New York Times or Politico. Seems like it’s a popular destination for political journos.

Borderstan: In your years here, what are a few of your favorite ‘only in DC’ experiences?

Newton-Small: I lived in NYC before moving to DC and all my New York friends can never understand why I’m not dying to go back. New York was full of lawyers and bankers all trying to make enough money to go off and follow their real dreams — becoming artists, musicians, actors, journalists, etc. DC is full of people pursuing their dreams. You may not agree with their goals or, often, their methods. But whether they’re environmental bleeding hearts, Wall Street lobbyists or World Bank economists, you can’t say they’re not interesting and passionate to engage. That’s what I love about DC.

Borderstan: Anything else you would like to share with the readers of Borderstan about your life or work?

Newton-Small: As someone who grew up without really knowing where “home” was, I like that my block is so close. We had a block yard sale this summer — unfortunately on the hottest day of the year — and we have wonderful leaders who’ve pushed the city to be better about policing the neighborhood and tending to the trees and streets. I’ve learned a lot about community from them and I feel lucky to be blessed with such civic-minded and engaged neighbors. I’ve covered government at its highest levels but seeing the grassroots from the ground up has been a powerful lesson on how much one person — or a block of people — can change things.

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by August 14, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,771 0

"Dafna Steinberg"

Dafna Steinberg at her studio. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania and Luis Gomez.

Local artist-photographer, Dafna Steinberg was seven when she received her first camera – and she hasn’t stopped snapping pictures since.

The DC native and U Street resident finds inspiration for her art in everything – including her art-driven childhood, her neighborhood and DC’s arts community.

“My mother would take me to museums and galleries all over,” said Steinberg. “In fact, she was the one that gave me my first camera.”

After discovering the darkroom at age 13, Steinberg knew she wanted to pursue photography.

“I think it was the photographic process [that captured me],” said Steinberg. “From taking the photo on film, to developing it and then printing it – it’s like magic.”

Steinberg’s photographic art has evolved over the years; these days, she is very involved with mixed media and collage.

“Collage is a different creative process all together, but it still holds a sense of magic,” explained the artist. “It’s taking bits and pieces of my images or other found images and turning them into something new and interesting.”

Living in DC has propelled Steinberg’s creative drive and has given the artist opportunities she never imagined having. Steinberg shares a studio space close to her apartment with six other DC-based artists.

“It’s like having my own little art community,” said Steinberg, who also mentioned that she appreciates the constant feedback from her studio-mates.

In addition to creating her own art and staying active in DC’s art community, Steinberg finds and sells vintage clothes and accessories at DC Flea, a monthly pop up vintage market, of which she is a co-founder. In her spare time, she also boxes, tweets and drinks lots and lots of coffee.

Steinberg is currently working on a project about food culture and emotional eating. The project will result in an installation and performance sometime next year at Doris Mae, a gallery opening up on 14th Street.

As part of the project, Steinberg started a blog called “Eat What I Feel” where she collects photos of people eating food and their experience of eating.

For more information on the artist, visit her website:

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by August 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,015 0

"Victoria Lai - Ice Cream"

Victoria Lai is the owner of Ice Cream Jubilee. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Chelsea Rinnig. Email her at chelsea[AT}

“Some people say I talk about ice cream all the time,” confessed Victoria Lai. “But really, ice cream is a joyful diversion from talking about work, which people in DC do all the time.”

Originally from Houston, Lai is the founder of Ice Cream Jubilee — an ice cream business that sprung from her humble blog and has since extended its reach throughout the Borderstan community.

Lai’s forays into dessert-making began while she was in law school and continued as she spent her vacation days away from her corporate law job to work part-time at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a well-known pie shop in Brooklyn. After receiving her first ice cream maker as a gift, Lai began experimenting with flavors and playing with different flavor combinations, an experience she describes as “translating different ideas into new mediums.”

Her favorite flavors resemble inspirations from her life and incorporate everything from the Asian flavors of her Chinese-Singaporean background, to tasty cocktails and even playful childhood favorites (Peppermint Pop Rocks, anyone?).

Lai moved to her U Street NW apartment after accepting a job to work in the government, but bureaucracy did not hinder her creativity, as she continued to concoct flavors like Thai Iced Tea and Banana Bourbon Caramel.

In the summer of 2011, Lai began selling ice cream at the Grey Markets. Currently, she sells it to friends out of her home and at Feastly tasting events she hosts periodically.

“Feastly allows me to reach new people who may have read about Feastly in the newspaper, but have never heard of Ice Cream Jubilee,” explained Lai.

Not only does Lai love making ice cream for events, but she also revels in the challenge of planning the whole event.

“It can feel like a full-time job,” she explained, involving not just making large quantities of ice cream and inventing new flavors, but writing the blog posts, taking photos, coordinating guests and plugging the event through all of the various social media outlets, like Ice Cream Jubilee’s Facebook page and Twitter handle.

But Lai says that the process feeds her soul. She loves seeing her guests’ reactions when they taste a new flavor or when there happens to be extra Cardamom Black Pepper for another round of sampling. She believes that their joy illustrates why she chose the inherently light and effervescent name for her business, Ice Cream Jubilee.

“Happiness is not so hard to come by,” said Lai.

At some point in the next five years, Lai dreams of having an ice cream business, and is currently working on garnering neighborhood support and partners.

Ideally, Lai would love to open a storefront in the U Street, 14th Street or 9th Street neighborhoods. Until then, Lai is sure that “public service is in her blood” and that she will continue her dual-career, working government by day and serving ice cream as her avocation.

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by June 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,760 0

"Liz Kibble"

Some of Liz Kibble’s shots of musicians. (Courtesy of Liz Kibble)

Borderstan recently sat with with local resident, live music photographer and DC enthusiast, Liz Kibble, who took time out of her schedule to dish on everything from her childhood, to her career in the arts and her family life in the neighborhood. 

Borderstan: Tell us a bit about you and your background, family.

Kibble: My childhood was awesome. I was born in Takoma Park, Maryland and spent my early childhood there with my grandparents. My grandmother was a teacher and my grandfather was an accountant. I moved to Virginia at age 7, and was back-and-forth between DC and Maryland as a young girl. My maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican, my maternal grandfather is Italian and my father’s side of the family is all Dominican. Yet despite the mix of all of these ethnicities, I’ve yet to learn another language other than English — and I’m still trying to perfect that!

As an only child, I was spoiled with love. I enjoyed playing outside, participating in church activities, having my Grandmother drop me off at school, etc. We did not have a TV in our home; my Grandparents preferred reading and listening to programs like NPR. And our home was usually filled with visitors and families who needed a place to stay for a while.

My grandparents are still a huge part of my life and of my two daughters’ lives. They are extremely influential, always providing a stable environment, assistance with education and support and love for the family. I’ve been really fortunate.

"Liz Kibble"

Liz Kibble. (Courtesy Liz Kibble)

Borderstan: How did you end up being a resident of Borderstan?

I actually lived in this same area (and other neighboring areas) when I was younger, so this is home to me. I remember when this neighborhood was quite different; but I’ve always loved the area and have always been proud to live here. I welcome diversity, change and growth, as long as respect is shown to the original neighborhood families and businesses.

Living in The Ellington is awesome. It’s right in the center of shops, cafes, restaurants, music venues, lounges, parks, churches, independent businesses, art studios/galleries/schools, museums, etc. I can take the metro or walk to so many places. I love the sparkle of the city and its neighbors. It’s a smart, beautiful, livable city with a huge purpose and a soft side.

Borderstan: How did you get involved with photography? What inspired you to get into the kind of photography that you do? 

Kibble: I used to work as an artist/tour merchandiser, and one of the musicians for whom I worked was hosting a jazz cruise in 2007. I met painter/photographer Catherine Pierce on that cruise and we became instant friends. I was impressed with her incredible paintings and photos of her dear friend Roy Hargrove, who was also on the cruise. I had no experience with a professional camera but she was kind enough to allow me to shoot with hers that night and on another jazz cruise in 2009. It was through her encouragement that I took a strong interest in live music photography and fell totally and completely in love with it.

Of course I realized that I was coming into the game way late, but I always enjoyed the jabs I received from those really old photographers that shook their elderly fingers at me and told me long stories about how they started out before film was even invented. I cherish these guys so much! I love listening to them, learning from them and respecting their art.

I find it really enjoyable to develop friendships with those old school guys and have been incredibly blessed by them, as well as the youngsters out there who are just realizing their passion for the craft. We all have a place and a time to shine, and the more we work together and respect one another, the better we will be, artistically and professionally.

Borderstan: How does Borderstan inspire your work? Is Borderstan reflected in your work?

Kibble: I remember meeting Luis [Editor Luis Gomez] from Borderstan through my neighbor and friend, Isabelle Spicer. Isa is an artist with Mid City Artists and is also a supporter of my work. She even hired me a few times! She had awesome things to say about Luis, and I had the chance to meet him at one of her open house showings. I added him to Facebook and quickly became addicted to his style of photography. The way he captures DC and beyond is something truly special.

As I learned more about Luis and Borderstan, I learned about the hard sacrifice, work and rewards of spending countless hours dedicated to something that improves our lives and gives others a chance to connect. I highly respect the positivity, reliable journalism, connection to the heartbeat of the city we share, love and that is all represented in Borderstan and its owners/contributors.

Borderstan: Do you experiment with other types of art?

Kibble: I have the hidden talent of a comedian… It’s so hidden, you may not actually ever notice it. And that’s alright.

Borderstan: What else do you enjoy doing? What are your other interests, hobbies?

Kibble: I work as a payroll accountant for a local television network. I love television. I leave mine on all night. Not recommended, but it’s probably a side effect from not watching TV as a child. I enjoy being a mother to my children and a wife to my husband. I enjoy vegetarian cuisine and flying anywhere in an airplane.

I’m interested in learning more about studio lighting as it relates to photography. Since I specialize in live music photography, I don’t use flash, so I’d like to learn more about that and expand my business to include that. My photography also includes occasional party, wedding and social photography — and I usually request the assistance of my daughters, since they are excellent in that genre. My husband’s daughter is also an amazing artist, and his son is very talented as well… just had to brag about the kids! I also recently signed singer Loide Jorge to Red Carpet Media Group, and am booking her locally and globally, so please look out for her!

Borderstan: Favorite places to go in the Borderstan area?

Kibble: Everywhere! Especially all the local restaurants. I love them so much that I never use my kitchen. I also love the local music scene in DC. There are so many talented hard working musicians who play all over the city. DC is pure energy and life when it comes to its music scene. Shooting each year for DC Jazz Festival gives me an opportunity to capture this life.

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by May 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,719 0

"Borderstan""Richard McWalters"

Richard McWalters is director of museum operations at the National Geographic Museum. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter@rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

In a city home to more museums than metro stops (or so it seems), Washingtonians are blessed with easy access to a wide variety of world-class exhibitions. Neighborhoods throughout the area are sprinkled with galleries, monuments and institutions housing an endless variety of historical artifacts.

But beyond the shelved relics and mounted artwork lays an equally important, but often under-looked, component of art and design: the actual exhibit space.

Designing and crafting an exhibit is a difficult endeavor that requires the unique ability to blend the physical environment with storytelling in a way that both appeals to and educates visitors. Furthermore, the time spent designing and building an exhibit that successfully captures a story can take a tremendous amount of time, rivaling the carbon dating of most prehistoric artifacts.

But Richard McWalters, director of museum operations at the National Geographic Museum, accomplishes this task on a daily basis.

With a background in industrial education and woodworking, McWalters moved to the District in 1983 to pursue a job that involved more design experience. Throughout the five years spent at that job, he refined his skills and even had the opportunity to work on the team that renovated DC’s historic Willard Hotel.

Then, in 1988, McWalters answered a blind job advertisement for a company seeking an individual with a skill set that closely matched his. That company turned out to be National Geographic, and McWalters has been there ever since.

“What I like about my job is that I still get to do the design work, but I also get to incorporate education,” explained McWalters. “We’re always teaching people about new subjects; it’s a nice blend for me.”

McWalters has spent the last 25 years working tirelessly to design and display several stunning exhibits, including the famed Terra Cotta Warriors.

“The Terra Cotta Warriors was the pinnacle exhibition in my career; I probably won’t work on anything like that again,” said McWalters, who has also worked on designing projects from pirates (“Because who wouldn’t want to see an exhibit on pirates?”), to the National Geographic Museum’s current exhibit exploring the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

So what exactly goes into designing an exhibit space at the National Geographic Museum? According to McWalters, quite a bit.

First, McWalters and his team of curators, designers, graphic developers and engineers design the physical space that houses the exhibit, which often varies in square footage depending on the display. Next, the team develops the storyline and the concept for the showcase. Everyone then works to figure out how to best tell the story, whether it be through video, film, artifacts, etc.  The whole process typically takes about one year to complete before the final product is displayed to the public.

“Bit by bit, we put all of the pieces together and merge them at the end for a final product,” explained McWalters.

McWalters does not stop building and designing when he is out of the office. In his free time, he dabbles in woodworking, antiquing, rock climbing, gardening and building Celtic rock sculptures, known as Cairns.

“I like to work with my hands; I like to stay close to the earth,” said McWalters, who also stays close to his Irish roots by taking Irish language lessons in the city.

About two years ago, McWalters traded in a home equipped with land and gardens in Sterling, Virginia for the 15th Street NW townhouse he shares with his wife, Devika, and a cat, Tula.

“We’re still working on the house, and I am still putting my mark on things,” said McWalters, who plans to keep pursuing woodworking and gardening in his new urban home.

For McWalters, the move has been an adjustment from suburban to urban, but it’s been great.

“This summer, I want to build a storage shed to house my tools and maybe even some bikes,” he explained.  “But we love this neighborhood, it’s fantastic and we take advantage of everything in walking distance – especially the restaurants.”

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by April 19, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,394 0

Jessica, Michael and Lucy “the Mayor of Swann Street.”  (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. She is a nanny by day and a writer/DC-culture seeker by night. Nania writes about everything from food, to health, fashion, art and District lifestyle. In her spare time, she enjoys studying yoga, biking across the city, walking her dog and writing on her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania.

This week, Borderstan caught-up with Jessica Erfer and her husband, Sgt. Michael Gonen, who just returned from a seven-month civil affairs deployment with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. The last time we sat-down with Jessica, she was busy organizing a day of makeovers for local Marine wives at Bang Salon on U Street.

Since then, Jessica’s been keeping busy with her congressional affairs job at the Pentagon, welcoming her husband home from overseas and moving apartments.

Luckily, Jessica and Michael took a few minutes out of their busy schedules to chat with us about everything from “Game of Thrones” (books vs. television), doggy medical insurance and their upcoming move from the heart of Borderstan to the border of Logan Circle and Shaw.

Borderstan: The last time we spoke, you were organizing and hosting a day of pampering for local Marine wives at Bang Salon on U Street. Can you tell us a little bit about that day? What was the motivation behind the idea and how did it all work out?

Jessica: I worked with Bang about six years ago and kept in contact with people there. I knew that our unit was not doing much in the way of programming for the spouses, specifically, so I emailed the manager at the salon and asked him if he would be interested in setting something up. I told him that I would do most of the legwork if he could sponsor the event.

To be honest, it was a nugget of an idea I had early on in the deployment; and in January, one of the wives asked me how it was going… So I got on it! The owner of Bang gave me the green light, we had a lot of people donate products for goody bags and the woman who did the makeup for my wedding even volunteered to help out. I believe we had six local women participate.

Borderstan: Did the day result in any drastic makeovers? Were there any surprised husbands who didn’t recognize their wives?

Jessica: No, it was more pampering. One of the women had a baby during the deployment, so she hadn’t had her eyebrows done or her hair cut in a long time – that sort of thing. There was nothing crazy involving a major cut or color.

Borderstan: Do you have anything in the works for similar events in the future?

Jessica: We’ll see! DC doesn’t really have a strong military community, so it would be nice to build one and keep these events going.

Borderstan: And now that your husband is home, what is your favorite thing to do together?

Michael: Catch-up on all the TV I missed! “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Up All Night,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Game of Thrones”… I’ve almost caught-up on a few of them, but obviously have a lot to watch.

Borderstan: You mentioned that you are in the middle of a move — are you going far?

Michael: Logan Circle. It’s literally one mile. (All eyes focus on Lucy, the four-and-a-half-year old Mastiff, who just had a doctor’s appointment. She saunters out to the balcony at a sluggish, drug-induced pace.)

Jessica: But we are downgrading on the balcony; the new place has a Juliette balcony, and as you can see, our dog loves the balcony. We call her the Mayor of Swann Street because she patrols everyone that walks by.

Borderstan: That sounds relatively easy — a move that is nice and close!

Jessica: Not really… We will have to pick out all new restaurants!

Borderstan: Where is your favorite place to eat in your current location?

Jessica: Probably Rosemary’s Thyme Bistro. It’s so good.

Michael: That is where she hosted my surprise party when I returned home… I am very easily surprised. Even when there are a ton of hints and I should totally pick-up on what’s being planned, I never have any idea.

Borderstan: So then, I have to ask… When did you move to Borderstan? And what brought you to the area?

Michael: I moved to the area after I graduated from GW [The George Washington University] in 2003. I am definitely a city person.

Jessica: I guess I bought this place [their current apartment] in 2008. And work brought me here. But we really do love the area.

Borderstan: Did you meet in Borderstan?

Jessica: No. It’s so DC, but we met on the Hill… but we got married in Dupont Circle! And have lived here since.

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by March 15, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,336 2 Comments


"Borderstan" "Aaron Denu" "Dupont Circle"

Aaron DeNu in Dupont Circle. (Luis Gomez Photos)

By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]

Welcome to another edition of “Borderstan People,” in which we profile residents-of-interest in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area. Sometimes they are people we simply find interesting, but not in the public eye — and sometimes they are people who’ve gotten some press attention. Aaron DeNu falls into the later category as one of the locals who helps organize events in Dupont Circle as part of the Dupont Festival series (check out other events that have held in the Circle and Borderstan stories on events listed at bottom). Recently, you may have read about DeNu who brought the annual February 2 celebration of Groundhog Day to DC.

Borderstan: You’ve successfully staged a giant World Cup festival that received international attention, organized the first ever feature film (E.T.) screening in the Circle, and convinced a Councilmember to “listen” to a stuffed groundhog in the city’s first Groundhog Day event. What’s the next event you plan to bring to the Circle?

DeNu: Thank you, Michelle. I’d like to think we’ve brought some new life to the Circle. We’re taking notes, assessing outcomes, and working to make improvements. The success of these efforts is due to the team work of Dupont Festival and our board of directors. We’re working towards a number of upcoming outdoor experiences that range from continued movie screenings, a festival focused on jazz, and a table tennis tournament.

Borderstan: Now that we have that to look forward to, can you tell us what precisely it is about Dupont Circle that makes it the natural home for these events?

DeNu: Residents genuinely identify with the location. It’s physically and socially tied to the neighborhoods’ identity. These activities are oriented to be site-specific, they establish a sense of place, and they make up a portion of the community’s character.

Borderstan: Any concerns that the possible Dupont Underground could bring an end or disruption to these events? What are your thoughts on the proposals?

DeNu: Of course, I speak for myself, here. The Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) proposal is inspiring and thoughtful. I support their vision for the re-opening of the abandoned Dupont trolley station as a world-class gallery space and community hub to promote the arts in DC. I think we’re starting to see a number of inventive projects, across the country, committed to smart, adaptive reuse.

Borderstan: What’s your motivation behind these community events? Is it just a new form of neighborhood socializing or is it driven by a larger goal?

DeNu: I’m driven by this idea of creatively animating public spaces. I consider it a labor of art and collaboration. These endeavors ought to satisfy, so we need to be doing things that bring people together, that improve quality of life, that encourage and promote community identity.

The National Endowment of the Arts define such efforts –towards creatively animating public spaces– as Creative Placemaking (2010). The larger goal is that these efforts ought to satisfactorily impact our city. Honestly, it’s not always easy to accurately assess such goals. How do you measure an ethos? We’re working on it.

Borderstan: How on earth have you been able to work so well with DC government on these projects? What is your advice to others engaged in similar neighborhood endeavors?

DeNu: Networking is key. In the end it’s good ideas and strong relationships that make the difference. Keep at it. Stay focused and positive. You have to put yourself in front of new people, establish trust, and take some calculated risks. I think, it’s a constant learning process, it’s fluid, ever-changing.

Borderstan: What has been the biggest surprise about these events? Any particularly sweet success stories or vignettes to share with us?

DeNu: It was surprising to get a financial donation from Henry Kissinger at one point. He gave the Soccer in the Circle event team a gift towards the implementation of our World Cup festival. As it turns out, Kissinger had served as chairman of the North American Soccer League board of directors back in 1978.

Borderstan: I know you’ve worked closely with ANC 2B/Dupont. If you were a commissioner for a day, what would you put on the top of their agenda?

DeNu: There’s been (unconfirmed) reports of a Sasquatch near the P Street Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway. It would be great if they could check into that for us.

Borderstan: Tell us more about you. What do you do when not planning hijinks in the parks around Borderstan? What brought you to DC?

DeNu: I’m a native of Cincinnati and lived in New York City for grad school before landing in DC for a job at GW. I absolutely love exploring this city on bike. I spend my time around town with friends and with my fiancé, Lauren Rurak, who works as an account executive for Discovery Communications in Silver Spring.

Borderstan: What are your favorite haunts and things to do in the neighborhood?

DeNu: I can’t get enough of the cheese enchiladas at El Rinconcito (11th & M NW). I’ve made a habit of ordering the moules marinière from Café Dupont (19th and Dupont Circle NW). I can confirm that The Gibson makes a mean cocktail (14th and U NW). And I find myself frequenting The Phillips, Long View Gallery, and The Keegan Theatre quite often.

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