Eviction Notice.

posted in: D.C. 0
The couches weren't exactly like this. Photo: Serife Gerenschier.
The couches weren’t exactly like this. Photo: Serife Gerenschier.

As I sped toward Capitol Hill in a taxi yesterday, I thought, “Do I really live here? Is this my life?” Such thoughts have come to me before, even when I have been in the same place for a long time, but changes have happened so quickly lately and the reversals have been so swift, I had whiplash in a smooth cab ride.

Speaking of upheaval, today I saw something I had never seen before: a fresh eviction. I was on U Street, headed for groceries, and I suspect if I had been just ten minutes earlier, I might’ve seen actual furniture being thrown out the actual window or pushed through an actual door.

Furniture was all over the sidewalk as I walked up. There was commotion. Couches, tables, a TV set, splintered wood, a few sagging boxes of cords and things, all pushed up to the curb and only saved from falling into the street by the parked cars there. Two young men of about twenty-five in hoodies and baggy pants were nervously laughing too loud, punching each other and whooping, clearly trying to make what was a big, fat, hairy mess, look like a hilarious moment in an otherwise unremarkable day. Their strategy was not working. This was a big, fat, hairy mess for these guys and the whole neighborhood/world could see it, right there on U and 14th.

As they passed, people either stepped around the situation or stopped to more closely examine it. I was one of the former, choosing to cross the street when I heard another woman near me exclaim, in a chastising, it-takes-a-village kind of tone, “I guess y’all been evicted.” Until she said that, I was unsure of what I was looking at. The woman gave the boys a wide berth, too. But other people were more brave than the two of us. A man and a woman who walked out of the Chinese restaurant nearby examined a table, inspecting it for possible rescue, I guess. Several indigent-looking folks had descended and were picking this and that, giving looks of “What are you gonna do about it?” as the boys cavorted nearby, presumably in shock.

My ex-husband’s family owned rental properties in Chicago and I learned a thing or two (really, like one thing or two things) about the landlord-tenant relationship. Though my sources were biased, it did appear that the tenant has a slight edge over the landlord in the relationship’s balance of power. Once a lease is signed — at least in Chicago — a tenant is entitled to some rights that favor his or her situation (needing a place to live) over the landlord’s situation (owning an apartment.) Over the six or so years I was with my ex-husband, I heard of a few instances where an eviction needed to take place but couldn’t because of this or that red tape; I understood that the cost of evicting someone was often higher than just giving them a free month’s rent and threatening them with police force if they didn’t get out by a certain date. This usually did the trick and involved far less paperwork for everyone.

So the boys today, they must’ve screwed up pretty bad. There’s a big homelessness problem in DC. I see bums everywhere, especially around Union Station, the nearest train stop for me. I stepped around a plastic garbage can on the curb and thought that this might be just how it starts, an eviction at the end of December; for many, it’s just a domino somewhere in the middle of the chain.

Hillwood: “Where Fabulous Lives”

posted in: D.C., Tips, Travel 0
I'd like a grilled cheese, please. (Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate)
The Dining Room at Hillwood. I’d like a grilled cheese, please! [Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate.]
I stood in line waiting to board my first flight of two today and my heart sank for a moment, thinking of landing in LaGuardia and maneuvering through New York’s soul-sucking taxi lines. Then I remembered that no, Manhattan was not where I was headed, that I would sleep tonight in a fluffy white bed in the District of Columbia. I was so happy, I mouthed Michael Jackson “shamone” and did a tiny version of the Thriller low-snap with the stanky leg. Possibly I did this all this out loud and more visibly than I intended, which would explain why suddenly I had more room in line.

I’ll only be in town a few days — New York for a nasty procedure on Friday, Chicago for Christmas — but I have sworn to avail myself of a Christmas-centric D.C. delight before they’re all over. I have many options. There’s the Russian Winter Festival, but that would make me miss Yuri terribly, so I can’t go to that. There’s a Norwegian Holiday Toy Train exhibit at Union Station that I will totally go to because I live two blocks from Union Station and I come from a long line of Vikings.** I could go to various tree-lighting ceremonies, but I want something D.C. specific. Serious research is rewarded; I found a neat thing to do on Saturday afternoon.

The marketing message for Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden is “Where Fabulous Lives.” Nice work, slogan people, because that’s darned good. Hillwood, located inside the city in its northwest quarter, is indeed an extremely fancy place. The person who bought it and made it that way was Marjorie Merriweather Post. You know the Fruity Pebbles you ate for breakfast this morning? Yeah, she was that Post. Her father started the Post cereal empire in 1895 and when he died, it was Marjorie — an only child — who took the reigns and actually made the whole General Mills deal happen. Marjorie was brilliant, clearly, and beautiful, and she had taste like Coco Chanel had taste, though it seems she was far more pleasant at a dinner party.

Marjorie bought Hillwood in 1955 and planned from the start that it would eventually exist as a museum. There are vast gardens, Faberge eggs in lighted, inset, cherrywood shelves, staff quarters — all the stuff you would expect from a billionairess’ fifth home or whatever Hillwood was for Marjorie. And during the holidays, the curators do a lot of neat exhibits, including a showing of Marjorie’s collection of Cartier jewels that “inspire” the decorations all over the house. I think this means that there are either real diamonds or excellent facsimiles hanging from Christmas trees in every room. They also said something about Cartier dinnerware for heaven’s sakes, all set up at the dining room table.

It’s not the crazy wealth I’m interested in seeing. It’s seeing sparkly things. It’s seeing what a woman’s home looks like when she can buy everything in the world but knows better. I’ll go to Hillwood to get into the Christmas spirit, D.C. style, and perhaps I will mark the occasion by purchasing a commemorative Honey Bunches of Oats pin at the gift shop.


**This is actually true. I’m half Scottish, half Norwegian, which should mean I have the soul of a Norse god and an iron constitution. The former is clearly true; the latter must skip generations.

D.C. Love (No Irony Allowed)

posted in: D.C., Paean 1
It's like my brain is wearing bunny slippers.
My life feels like it’s wearing bunny slippers.

I went on a walk through Capitol Hill this morning and at the base of the front steps of the Capitol Building, I wept.

It’s fair to say that the widespread use of irony has flattened huge tracts of human experience in our culture. What I mean by that is that we say stuff all the time in an ironic way (e.g., “C’mon, I love fruitcake,” or “A rainstorm is exactly what I hoped would happen on game day,” or “Nothing like a pleasant stroll through Times Square on New Year’s Eve!”) and for the most part, we all recognize that irony (at least our American version of it) is happening. Art does this, too: Jeff Koons, though I really like his stuff, is totally ironic (e.g., a sculpture depicts the Pink Panther hugging a busty blonde; there’s a series of photographs where Koons is engaged in explicit sex with his wife, but it’s all styled in romance novel memes.) But one of the results of this style of communication is that it’s risky to have a genuinely sincere moment of vulnerability or sensitivity.

For example, when I say I wept at the steps of the Capitol, it would be easy to be like, “Yikes, that is really cheesy, Fons”; it would be easy to cringe a little because being touched by architectural beauty and the grand symbols of our democracy has so been done before.

Yo, irony: suck an egg. I was a grateful, wobbly, sincerely weeping American this morning and it felt fantastic. Not indulgent. Not grody. Just honest.

And as I stood there and gazed up at the dome and cast my eyes all around at the fountains and the sculpture, at the wide open space of Washington, D.C., I knew that later today, there would be crowds of protesters, exercising their right to protest. I loved that the grand space was so open; there are no gates to the Capitol, just sidewalks that lead right up to the door. I felt good to be a taxpayer and that definitely does not happen often. (“I love paying quarterly taxes, don’t you??)

Leaving New York was hard. The breakup was harder. But one has to trust oneself. I’m so much happier here it’s almost shocking. There are wide-open spaces, there is clean air, there are trains where you can find a (clean) seat.

I wept in New York, but I never wept over it.

Tips: Best Shower Ever

posted in: D.C., Tips 0
After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape, by Edgar Degas, 1898. Pastel on paper; Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

The best shower you can take is a post-move shower. If you set it up correctly, this can be an almost ecstatic experience. Here’s how to do it.

1. Push yourself to make just one more pile of objects disappear.
2. Repeat No. 1 until you put your hands on your hips, survey your home, and go, “Nice.”
3. Because of No. 1 and 2, your bathroom should be primo at this point, but double check: your shampoo, conditioner, almond oil, back brush, shower pouf, exfoliating scrub, shaving cream, and bone-handled razor should all be in place.
4. Turn on the shower. Start with warm water so that you’ll be able to slowly increase the temperature as your body adjusts. You’re going for lobster, here.
5. For dramatic effect, to absolutely no one at all, shimmy out of your robe and wink over your shoulder as you step into the shower; swish the curtain closed with a flourish.
6. Scrub, soap, lather, clean, cleanse, and otherwise scour thyself into a wholly new creature.
8. Exit shower.
9. Wrap yourself in a fluffy robe and put slippers on your feet; pad downstairs to the living room and sink into overstuffed easy chair.
10. See another pile over by the side table.
11. Repeat No. 1.

Point A, Meet Point B.

The kitchen and dining room of my new home.
The kitchen and dining room of my new home.


“The moving gods giveth, the moving gods taketh away.”
– A cold, wet me @ 6:08am

Several weeks ago, when I moved out of the apartment Yuri and I shared, my sister and I loaded and re-loaded a hand-truck with boxes and hoisted duffel bags over our shoulders. We schlepped my stuff six blocks or so, from the sad and quickly emptying unit at 2nd Ave. and St. Mark’s to Nan’s place at Ave. A and E. 11th. Back and forth, back and forth we went till the job was done, sister pack mules. Every time I move (and I seem to have a knack for doing it all the time lately) I am reminded why some people find a place to settle and commence growing moss. Moving is like… Well, imagine if you had to put all the things in your house into boxes — absolutely everything. Then imagine you had to carry all those (heavy) boxes out of your house, and load them into a vehicle. And then imagine you have to take those (heavy) boxes out of the vehicle, carry them into a new house, and then unpack everything! Ha! It’s like, “No way! That would never happen!” and “That doesn’t even make sense! All your belongings?? In boxes?? Please. How would you know where anything was?”

Moving is kinda like that.

When we moved my things to Nan’s, we had good weather and were grateful for it. But the moving gods are fickle. Around 5:00 this morning, a cold, hard rain began to pelt Manhattan. This was unfortunate, as our plan was to load everything into the kidnapper van at 6:00 sharp. Nan had jury duty today and had a limited window to help me. Moving quickly, pre-dawn, we got the van loaded in about 40 minutes. Just as we were finishing up and I was wondering what to do with the van until it was time to leave several hours later, a parking spot opened up and I successfully parallel parked the beast for the second time in two days.

It rained all the way till the New Jersey Turnpike; a driving, hard rain, washing the roads in water that was clearly trying to be ice. In New York, even the rain is a hustler.


When I got to Washington, D.C., I swear, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. The rain stopped. I found my street. I got the keys from the lockbox. I stepped inside…and positively squealed with delight. There’s an upstairs and a downstairs! There’s a fireplace! There’s a big, long table in the dining room that has already been converted to my sewing table! Sure, the upstairs is just the bedroom, the fireplace isn’t functional, and my dining room is small now that I have appropriated it as my sewing studio, but I couldn’t possibly be happier.

I unloaded the entire kidnapper van all by myself in about an hour. Pure adrenaline.

There is nothing easy about ruthlessly, relentlessly dedicating yourself to the pursuit of happiness. You will cut your dry fingers on cardboard boxes, you will get mud on your boots and your jeans, you will say goodbye to people at airports and, over time, you will misplace or break everything that is possible to break or misplace.

When you sit down, though — when it’s finally time to sit down and you make a cup of tea with honey — that’s when, just for a minute, it stops being so damned hard.

I Move To D.C. Tomorrow Morning.

posted in: D.C., Travel 0

This morning, I walked from Avenue A to 11th Ave (that means I walked the width of the Isle of Manhattan) got my U-Haul “kidnapper” cargo van, and then drove back to Avenue A. I had never driven a car in Manhattan before today. It was cool. I was all right. I even parallel parked. Cranking the wheel back and forth to get it right was so intense my biceps hurt by the time I got in the spot. I need a massage.

I move to Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning. I’m counting minutes.

Or I would be counting minutes if I wasn’t currently coasting on a ladylike amount of pinot grigio. Never blog when you’ve split a bottle of pinot grigio with your older sister — or when you’ve split a bottle of pinot with your sister and then gone ’round to the pub across the street from the apartment to have one more glass each while a jazz quartet plays in the back of the house. Never, never blog when this has happened. Who knows what silly, unladylike things could happen.

Tomorrow night, we sleep in Capitol Hill.

Race ya.

Miss Fons Goes To Washington.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Travel 3
Yo, Mary Fons!
Hello, Beautiful.

My apartment is on Capitol Hill.

It has a fireplace, bookshelves, a stove, tall leaded windows, and, from what I can see from the pictures, a fluffy bed ready to be outfitted with a quilt. I have done the math. I have signed the lease. I won’t break even living in Washington, D.C. for the next few months, but it’s not going to be too bad; being a freelancer all these years has taught me something about saving. I have moved things mentally, financially, and physically and I am ready.

Austin was a good guess; Portland, too. I liked my friend Lance’s suggestion of Philly and I considered Pittsburgh after being pleasantly surprised by it while there for Spring Quilt Market. But early on in the troubles, I knew I’d go to our nation’s capital, a city I have long had great feeling for. In 2010, I spent a month performing with the Neos at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in D.C. I remember walking home from the theater so many frosty nights, stars twinkling, the light on the Washington Monument slicing the black glass sky. Being with friends was the best part of the trip; living in the seat of our democracy came a close second. What can I say? I’m a patriot.

In April, I have a Quilty shoot in Chicago and leave immediately after to film TV in Iowa. May brings my sister’s wedding up at the lake house. Depending on just how much I love or dislike D.C., I’ll be there for sure four months, possibly six. I doubt I would want to be away from my beloved Chicago any longer than I have to, but as I have come to learn, un-learn, and re-learn lately, anything’s possible.

The breakup has been awful. Awful because our emotions go through the spin cycle on a daily basis. I love you, it’s over, it’s not over, you’re selfish, you’re selfish, this is crazy, this hurts, we’re making a mistake, I’m leaving, leave, fine, fine, fine. No breakup is fun, but I have experienced only a couple of real gullywashers and this would be one of the two. (I do take a certain pride in the fact that an actual dish was broken during all this, and I assure you it was not because someone dropped it on the floor.)

Someone I told about my move was surprised. She said, “What?! Like Washington D.C. is less crowded or cheap than New York??” I was surprised right back. The National Mall is wide and clear as Lincoln’s Reflecting Pool and the apartment I found is far prettier and roomier than anything here for the price. It will be cold there, but I’m from Iowa. I can take it. D.C. exceeds all my criteria; I can bundle up for that.

Washington will be a pause. I plan to watch snow.

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