Aug 8, 2006

DC Street Scenes

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Jamey Turner and the glass harp Left: 'Glass harp' virtuoso Jamey Turner

(Washington, DC) I tend to quickly become bored with tourist-related matters when I visit a new city, and instead find everyday life on the streets to be more interesting.

One of the most intriguing people I have met so far in and around DC is a musician named Jamey Turner, who plays a concoction called the "glass harp." Using glassware, common tools, and his own hands, Jamey creates evocative music; the evening I passed him on Alexandria's wharf he was playing calliope music.

Street PercussionistLeft: Street percussion

Another street musician, whose name I did not catch, is pictured at your left. He uses pots, pans, and 5-gallon plastic drums to create an incredible polyrhythmic percussion symphony. I would have much rather linked an mp3 sample than to merely photograph him as he played outside the Chinatown Metro station.

homeless veteranLeft: "Ed," a paralyzed veteran

Those who have been to DC in the last 20-30 years know the city's propensity to attract the homeless, the insane, and those who fall somewhere in between the aforementioned categories. To your left is Ed, who is a paralyzed Vietnam veteran; he seemed almost reluctant to panhandle, but in reality, what other options does he have?

Ed offered me blessings for the buck I gave him, but he is the one who needs the blessings. Hell, I have all of my faculties and many things going in my favor, and this man wants ME to be favored in GFod's eyes?

Paralyzed man Left: Unnamed man in wheelchair

Competition for spare change was heavy today, as Ed was joined a block further up H street by a man who did not want to give his name. This was a proud man who seemed ashamed at being reduced to looking for handouts, and our conversation was limited; his eyes, though, spoke of a life that once did things.

'No peeing' sign Left: Hand-painted sign in DC's Chinatown

For every "virtuous" panhandler, though, there are many more street people for whom it is harder to feel sympathy. The owner of a carryout painted this sign on the side of his building, ostensibly to remind passersby that his business is not a latrine.

Drunken street person Left: Incoherent drunk on 8th and H Streets

There are plenty of delusional and inebriated types wandering DC and surrounding environs at all hours. This particular individual was drunk beyond sensibility at 2:00 pm, and I suspect he maintains a rather deep level of intoxication most of the day.

This, then, is how I spent an afternoon in the District of Columbia. As the serious DC workers and the happy-go-lucky tourists elbowed for space on the Metro, I putzed around with a camera and talked to eclectic people.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why I like this blog. Thanks for one of your best pieces, Mike.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Mike,

It is the same in most major cities.

D.C. seems to have a broader representation and distribution though.

If the burrocrats had their way, these people would all be relegated to somewhere out of sight and out of mind.

It's always sad to see vets of any war/era panhandling. It would seem that society should do better by them than this.

Dariush said...

"Another street musician, whose name I did not catch, is pictured at your left. He uses pots, pans, and 5-gallon plastic drums to create an incredible polyrhythmic percussion symphony. I would have much rather linked an mp3 sample than to merely photograph him as he played outside the Chinatown Metro station."

Mike,

I don't know if you're still in town or not. But if you are, you should go to a go-go show. Go-go is DC's home-brewn local music. Very heavily percussion-driven, with funk and jazz overtones.

I think Chuck Brown may be at the 9:30 Club.


HD: "It's always sad to see vets of any war/era panhandling. It would seem that society should do better by them than this."

It's shocking what a high percentage of the homeless are veterans. Disposable humans.

historymike said...

Yes, I'll be in DC and Maryland a few more days, Dariush. Thanks for the tip - I'll see if I can fit it in my schedule.

Kate said...

Glad you got to see it all Mike. Little Chinatown is something, isn't it?

avocadoinparadise said...

It's funny that you actually took pictures of the homeless people. That's generally a bit of a no-no, but I guess you were either taking to them or they were incoherent so you weren't at risk. Unfortunately they are often prone to yelling at/threatening visitors who do things like that.

I linked to this post in my blog today but was unable to get that fancy linked blogs tool to work, so I'm just mentioning it here instead here instead :)

Entertaining story. Enjoy your time in the city!