Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MARC on the Right Track

The Washington Post reported to today that MARC, the commuter rail service for the Maryland and West Virgina suburbs of Washington and Baltimore, is planning a major expansion in service which would potentially add Virgina and Delaware to the system. Details about the plan, released in the Baltimore Sun, call for existing service to triple by 2035, with many of the projects to start shortly.

At present, MARC, short for Maryland Rail Commuter, operates three lines, all terminating in the south at Washington's Union Station. The Brunswick Line operates peak direction service during rush hours between Martinsburg, West Virginia and Washington and between Frederick, Maryland and Washington. The other two lines, the Camden and Penn Lines, operate along different routes between Washington and Baltimore, with the Penn Line continuing northward to Perryville, Maryland. Bidirectional service is offered on both lines, although the Camden Line has peak-hour service only. Service is only offered on weekdays throughout the system. Demand has grown faster than supply for the past several years, and many trains operate with standing passengers. Already, MARC operates America's fastest commuter rail service, with trains on the Penn Line able to achieve 125 mph.

The proposed service increases are estimated to cost several billion dollars over the next 28 years, but offer a cost-effective way of improving travel throughout the Washington and Baltimore regions.

The plan calls for the following:
  • All lines would be extended south of Union Station and across the Potomac River into Virgina. Likely stops include: L'Enfant Plaza, Pentagon, and Crystal City by 2020.
  • Bidirectional (reverse commute) service will be introduced on the Brunswick Line by 2020.
  • Weekend service will be initiated on the Penn Line by 2010, and will include additional weekday service in the afternoon and late-night service.
  • Extension of the Penn Line to Newark, Delaware by 2015. In Newark, connections are available to Philadelphia's regional rail service, SEPTA. This extension will make it possible to travel from Fredericksburg, Virgina to New London, Connecticut entirely on commuter rail systems (in order: Virgina Railway Express, MARC, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Metro-North, and Shore Line East) with one exception: passengers would have to exit New York's Penn Station, transfer to the 1, 2, or 3 Subway trains to the 7, to Grand Central in order to transfer between NJ Transit and Metro-North.
  • By 2020, a new four-track Amtrak tunnel would be provided to replace the current two-track, 133 year-old tunnel (yes, I did type 133) south of Penn Station in Baltimore.
  • By 2035, a new CSX freight tunnel will be built through downtown Baltimore, allowing passenger trains on the Camden Line to travel northward from Camden station to the historic Mount Royal Station (which currently has no passenger trains) and on to Charles Village and Clifton Park, north of Baltimore.
  • In addition to these programs, additional stations will be constructed, renovated, or expanded. Much of the Northeast Corridor will be four-tracked between Washington and Newark, Delaware.
Maryland is really stepping up to the plate with these service expansion proposals. Let's hope that other cities begin to see the impact that commuter rail can have on the built environment. Articles like this really tell me that I've picked the right place to live.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Today, for some reason, I found myself reflecting upon my travels. From a young age, my parents made sure that I saw good bits of the States, and I am not dissatisfied with my journeying.

Meinen Sie Zürich zum Beispiel
sei eine tiefere Stadt,
wo man Wunder und Weihen
immer als Inhalt hat?
So far, I've travelled to 34 of the states (and lived in two of those). I am amazed by the diversity of this country. My current home state, Maryland, is called "America in miniature", and I can certainly see why, but it's just not quite as encompassing as I'd like it to be. Baltimore might have marvelous neighborhoods, but it isn't quite Chicago. That's okay, though. If Maryland had everything in the United States to offer, I'd have less reason to travel. I love the Appalachians, but I just have to see the Cascades again.

Meinen Sie, aus Habana,
weiß und hibiskusrot,
bräche ein ewiges Manna
für Ihre Wüstennot?
I have yet to find an American city I like as much as San Francisco, but Chicago and Washington are close contenders. I also really love Seattle; if they'd just get a rail transit system going, I'd be there in a heartbeat. It occurred to me as I signed an acceptance letter to the University of Maryland, that after having shortlisted 7 cities in which to live for the next several years, that I would have to reject 5 (I'd already been living in Atlanta). I had allowed myself to imagine myself living in a number of cities from Vancouver to Chicago, but it didn't sink in that I'd be living in only one until it was time to decide. Somewhere deep down I have this urge to actually live in these cities for a time, but realistically, I know that I have to settle down somewhere.

Bahnhofstraßen un rue'en,
Boulevards, Lidos, Lann --
selbst auf den fifth avenue'en
fällt Sie die Leere an --
I suppose that the voice I hear (I'm being figurative; not crazy) deep down is what the Germans so aptly call Wanderlust, and I'm not afraid of it. I suppose that that feeling is part of the reason I've been spending so much time exploring DC. Even though I'm a local now, I still have this deep-seated need to see it all. I suppose that given a month in all of the cities I've visited, I'd do the same thing. I saw quite a bit of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Chicago on my most recent travails, parts that most tourists don't make it to. But that's what makes travelling worth it. I always visit cities, although I spend quite a bit of time in the great outdoors, because those are the places where humans have made the most of the artform that is life.

Ach, vergeblich das Fahren!
Spät erst erfahren Sie sich:
bleiben und stille bewahren
das sich umgrenzende Ich.
Maybe I'm just being romantic, or perhaps it's my affection for cities (I am studying to be a planner, after all) but I can't get enough of these places, which are comforting to me. I'm not sure why I feel this affection for places of density. I grew up several miles outside of a small mill town of 7,000 in rural north Georgia. There "downtown" consisted of about four linear blocks of Main Street, plus a block or two on a couple of side streets. Nevertheless, I knew what my habitat was to be the moment I moved to Atlanta. Of course, the hub of the southeast was not quite what I was looking for in a city, but it was the best I could have found in the deep South. I hope that I can continue to build upon my experiences, and I certainly hope I find time to travel soon.

*The poem, interspersed above, is entitled Reisen and it was written by Gottfried Benn. It was the first, and only, poem which I was required to memorize for being late to a function while on my summer-long study aboad program in Germany.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Back to the Past, Part III

Before I started this blog, I used to have a Livejournal account. Recently I was looking over it and I've decided to post a few of my old posts here, on what I think will become a more lasting place for my thoughts. Last February, I had the chance to come wander across a long deserted Civil War battlefield in rural North Georgia. It was awe-inspiring to tour the battlefield and a few nearby bits of infrastructure. One of those appears to the left: the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Today the rail line is leased by CSX and here you can see the rails bending off into the Allatoona Mountains. Back in February I posted twice (because it was late and I wanted to go to sleep) about my trip to Allatoona, hence "Part III." Anyway, below is my old post, followed by some pictures which were not originally included.
It's not often that you discover a bit of history in your own back yard. I mean, really discover something unexpected. I have always been a history buff, and as such, I am constantly searching for some morsel of the past. Over the years, I came to learn quite a bit about the history of my little community. So I have a general idea of what is out there to be found. But last week, I stumbled upon a piece of Georgia history that I had always believed to be submerged beneath the waters of time.

Last Thursday brought me to the base of Allatoona Dam. I had been meaning to get out there and see it from the bottom for a long time now. It is a masterpiece of civil engineering-indeed it was the first Army Corps of Engineer's lake project in the Southeastern United States. The body of water that this dam created flooded the valleys of the Etowah River and Allatoona Creek. My hometown, Canton, was about 25 miles upriver along the Etowah channel, at the point where the unruly river meets the still, muddy waters of Allatoona Lake.

I have always wondered about the Cherokee County I never had the opportunity to get to know. In many places, I have been able to go out and uncover remnants of the way things were in generations past and vestiges of a future that never was to be. But there is one place that I have never been able to look.

For as long as I can remember, I was told that the reservoir downstream from Canton was named for a town that was flooded when the Etowah was impounded. And from what I understood of Georgia history, so was the site of the Civil War battle that took place around the town.

I suppose it is a bit ironic that one of the very reasons for the importance of the settlement of Allatoona was the same reason for its later demise.

Millions of years ago, during the time of the formation of the Appalachians, a small chain of mountains was pushed up along what is known today as the Cartersville Escarpment. This north-south range, called the Allatoona Mountains, provided a formidable barrier to east-west travel across this section of North Georgia. The mighty Etowah cut a steep gorge through these mountains as it flowed from its origin at Hightower Gap to its confluence in Rome. These rocky hills served as the site of an engineering marvel many years ago. In the 1840s, the State of Georgia was constructing a railway to connect the Tennessee and Chattahoochee Rivers. The northern endpoint of this railway, Chattanooga, opened up the Georgia wilderness south of the Cherokee nation to development; and the settlement on the southern end of the track was a testament to the potential that this railroad gave the state. Perhaps it is fitting that the city took its name from the railroad--Atlanta certainly shows the power of transportation in creating a city, even today.

At any rate, as the Western and Atlantic Railway began its serpentine journey through the Georgia woodland, it too had to penetrate these mountains. The railway workers achieved this by cutting a 360 foot long gap, 180 feet deep at its highest point, through the mountains. Even today, the sight of this man-made pass is astonishing. Sheer rock cliffs tower over the railroad bed, the top of the slope is as high as a twenty story building.

Less than a month after the fall of Atlanta, on October 5th, 1864, Confederate forces attempted to retake the gap from Federal hands in order to cut off Sherman's only supply line to the rest of the Union. This battle demonstrated another great irony of these mountains. Only a few years before this bloody battle, in April of 1862, Union troops under the command of James Andrews roared through this gap aboard the stolen locomotive General while they attempted to destroy the railroad link between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

In both cases, the rairoad stood the test of battle. It was a link that wouldn't be severed. Yet today, the gap does not echo with the sounds of steel on steel. It proved battleworthy, but didn't stand up to the test of time.

Today, the trains sound only as a distant rumble. In 1946, the tracks were relocated as part of the Corps of Engineers project which would flood parts of the little town of Allatoona, Ga. This project buried hundreds of years worth of Native American settlements and even American settlements under thousands of cubic yards of Lake Allatoona. Impoundment of the Etowah River, Little River, and Allatoona Creek was completed in 1950, and by that time, the Western and Atlantic had been relocated, its old embankment had been raised to form a dam to hold back the muddy lake water.

Yet just yards from the lapping waves, this cut through solid rock stands, an engineering marvel. These walls ran red with blood in one of the bloodiest battles of the Atlanta Campaign. A campaign which brought war to the citizenry in Sherman's infamous Scorched Earth strategy. It was a war that pitted brother against brother, father against son, man against man. It was a battle fought to make a difference in a war whose main outcome was being the bloodiest war in America's history; and whose only real cause was stubbornness.

It is a stubbornness which continues today unabated in the Southland. How many more cliffs must run red before brother can live with brother? Father with son? Man with man?

The blue waters show no hint of sorrow; the relentless, pounding surf can do little to cleanse America's conscience of her guilt.

It seems that as the wind whistles through the cut, the sounds of notes on a page filter through: "How many times must the cannonballs fly before they are forever banned?"
As you can see from my ending, I was feeling a bit dismayed at the tendency of Southerners to support the Iraq War and war in general. Those words, best sung by Joan Baez, really touch me. So much in fact, that I put them on the sign I made to take to the war protest last weekend in Washington. I suppose it's a bit ironic that she also sang "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Above is where my journey began in earnest back in February. In the distance, you can see the new W&A bridge over the Etowah River Valley, constructed in 1946 as part of the creation of the Allatoona Lake.

The moon hangs under this close-up of one of the railroad bridge's piers.

Allatoona Dam, the first Army Corps of Engineers impoundment project in the Southeast. This shot is from the north side, looking across the gorge.

Turning to my right, you can see a wonderful vista downstream as the Etowah winds westward. At the bottom of the picture, you can see an old iron furnace. It used to be the centerpiece of the town of Etowah, Georgia until the town (and it's railroad spur) was destroyed by Sherman's troops in 1864.

Epitomizing the "New South," Plant Bowen stands on the horizon powering the economy. The Georgia Power facility is almost 12 miles distant from where this photo was taken. In 2006 it ranked 3rd in the United States for power generation, adding well over 22 million MWh to the power grid.

It seems to look smaller from the bottom, but I wouldn't want to be down here if those floodgates were open.

And, finally, the famous Allatoona Pass. It is man made, although I believe Alfred Nobel might have helped a bit. The Civil War fortifications are in surprisingly good shape. The town's railroad station would have stood just behind me, along with the rest of the town.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This is the Mission. This is the...Metro?

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. This is Washington, after all. I came across an advertisement at the Pentagon Metro Station today (IMAGE: TOP LEFT). I can't help but notice the contrast between advertising on MARTA in Atlanta and here on the Metro. In Atlanta, the advertisements offered me an online degree or a cheap used car; here they try and sell jet aircraft to the military. The irony was not lost on me last weekend when Catherine and I went down to the war protest. We found ourselves carrying anti-war (note: anti-war, not anti-Iraq war) signs onto a metro car which had been entirely sponsored by Boeing. Apparently there are a lot of Pentagon high-ups on the Green Line who might be influenced by transit advertisements. If policy decisions were only that simple, eh? At least the Boeing car is more interesting than the car which has been totally been rented by a deoderant brand I've never heard of.

Anyway, the reason I was even down at the Pentagon is because my parade got rained on. Ok, so it wasn't a parade; but I was going to go riding again. I've been wanting to get up to Great Falls (where the Potomac crosses the Fall Line) since I moved to DC, but I haven't quite made it yet. Anyway, I had today reserved for that, but I only made it about 2 miles out of Georgetown before the rain set in. I decided that I didn't want to be soaked and still have 15 miles to go, so I turned around. I still got a little wet getting back to the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, but I beat most of the rain. I guess elevated freeways are good for something after all; the Whitehurst was a giant umbrella for me today.

Anyway, having been out less than an hour, I decided to just go riding on the Metro. So I now have a few more photos to add to my website if I ever get it back up again.

I am still awed by the cross-vault at L'Enfant Plaza (Green/Yellow/Blue/Orange)

Pentagon, Lower Level

Crystal City (on Inbound Platform)

A Yellow Line train leaving National Airport for Downtown Washington. The National Cathedral is visible to the left of the train.

Eisenhower Avenue, looking toward Alexandria

I really like the Arch II design better than the traditional Waffle (note the ceiling difference between this photo and Pentagon/Crystal City Stations, above). This is Columbia Heights, looking northbound.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"

We all know those famous words attributed to Patrick Henry, spoken as the framers prepared to wage war in order to ensure their freedom; to ensure the delivery of what they called their "unalienable rights." We indeed did fight a war to obtain those freedoms. At last free of an oppressive monarchical tyranny, America set of into the uncharted waters of forging a new democratic government which would become, as John Winthrop so aptly put it, a shining "city on a hill." Since the time of our founding, America has gone to war many times, ostenisbly under the banner of delivering the oppressed from some tyrannical ruler; we seem to have set before ourselves the task of "making the world safe for democracy," to quote President Woodrow Wilson. Even today this brave country is fighting a war which the President claims intends to "export democracy." Even as Mr. Bush continues to spend billions of dollars on America's new form of confrontational foriegn policy, however, he has promised a presidential veto to a bill which would put the balm on a wound that has been festering in the very fabric of America's democratic tradition since 1801. In that fateful year, which saw the discovery of ultraviolet radiation and the death of the infamous Benidict Arnold, the citizens of the District of Columbia lost their right to vote for the very legislative authority which governed them. In 1801 the shining city on Capitol Hill, the one which has been deemed the "Federal City," the one which represents in its very design the tenets of democracy, the one city built for all Americans became the single place in America where free citizens of the republic became disenfranchised. Even in the years since as blacks, women, and 18-21 year olds gained the right to vote, citizens of the District were denied the very basic principle intrinsic to the foundation of this nation: democracy.

One of the chief causes of the American Revolution was the idea that citizens were taxed by the Crown, yet they had no say in how these revenues were spent. Indeed, Washingtonians can make the same claim. Even though they pay the second-highest (counted as if DC were a state) per capita amount of federal income taxes, they have no representation in Congress, which has the power of the purse. Even taxes collected locally are not really under the jurisdiction of the locally elected government. Congress can spend DC's tax revenues however they please, even completely overriding the Mayor and Council's budget. This is a travesty which New York State cannot do to New York City; Illinois to Chicago; or California to Los Angeles. Yet it is a denial of the basic right to representation which the US Congress can do to the citizens of the District of Columbia. As to the District's locally elected government, which has only been around since Congress decided to let the citizens have some say in 1973, Congress reserves the right to overrule any law and change any part of the budget at its own discretion; and it frequently does so. Congress also has the ability to remove the positions of the locally elected officials. Imagine that the citizens of another great American city like Seattle or Miami went to the polls and elected a Mayor and Council which the federal government then decided to remove at its discretion. It is obscene that Congress wields this power over tax-paying, law-obiding American citizens; and it is time that it reliquished this tyrannical power.

The District is home to many full-fledged American citizens 50% of whom have lived there for more than 20 years. As a matter of fact, Washington, DC has a population higher than that of Wyoming, and in 1969 when Richard Nixon called for full representation, DC's population was larger than that of 11 states. Population comparisons aside, America is denying basic freedoms to over 580,000 of its citizens. Some have argued that because many choose to live in DC, they are voluntarily giving up their vote. The idea that an American can be stripped of his or her vote is rediculous. Would we be so keen on this discrimination if it were the citizens of Wyoming instead? Besides which, many citizens of DC were indeed born there. Even if we were to go back in time to the very founding of the District, we would find that there were those who already lived in two pre-existing cities (Georgetown and Alexandria) and the surrounding farms who were suddenly stripped of their vote 11 years after the city was sited at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. The fact of the matter is that there are many people who live in the District without whom our seat of government could not function. They are the policemen, garbage collectors, bus drivers, and federal employees who have made a permanent home in the district, yet they are systemically denied the right to vote.

Others argue that the citizens of the District should be denied the right to vote because the District is not a state. Even though our nation's capital is not called a state, it is treated as one by over 500 federal laws and its citizens must serve on federal juries and register for the Selective Service program. Many have fought and died in every war the United States has ever fought since its creation, and although they have spilled their blood in the name of freedom on foriegn soil, they never had it at home. Though the District is small and urban, that is no excuse to deny the right to vote of any American citizen. Would we consider stripping Rhode Island of its democratic process because it is smaller than all of the other states? Size is no matter when it comes to Congressional representation, the proportion is equivalent in the House of Representatives; in the Senate California has the same number as Wyoming, and yet with an even greater population, the District is denied representation. Some argue that giving the District voting rights is unfair to other cities (like New York with its 8 million residents) but that is not true. New York's citizens already get a say in how this country is run, just as the citizens of every other town, county, and city in the country; New York also has the added benefit of not having its budget and laws permanently under threat of removal. Furthermore, some have argued that giving DC a vote would amount to a partisan grant of several votes to the Democratic Party. While it may be true that citizens of the District tend to be more liberal than conservative at the moment, that is no reason to deny them the right to vote. Congress would certainly not consider removing Massachusetts' Representatives and Senators because they are certain to be Democrats; nor would they consider doing the same to Utah's Republican delegation; treatment of the District of Columbia should be the same.

Washington is often referred to as belonging to all Americans. To some degree that is true. There is certainly an air of pilgrimage to the tourists who populate our nation's capital for much of the year; and the monuments and memorials are truly there to be seen and experienced by all of the citizens of this country. However, the District also belongs to the people who live in it. The almost 600,000 residents own houses and businesses and in most respects, Washington is indistinguishable from any major American city. But while the residents of Denver and Atlanta can vote on how the tax dollars spent in their neighborhood are spent, people in the District can't. The fact of the matter is that every other jurisdiction in the United States sends representatives to Congress who are accountable. Yet those who rule the district are not accountable to those they govern. While it may be in the interest of the citizens of Georgia or Indiana for the granite on the Lincoln Memorial to be replaced, it is surely no matter to them when their representatives, as members of Congress, decide that the District's recreation program shouldn't include a new park for Columbia Heights or an expanded police precinct in Anacostia. Would it be fair for California's delegation to Congress to decide where road money was spent in Maine if the citizens of Maine had no say? It is not fair, then, for representatives to deny the basic right to democracy which the citizens of the District of Columbia have had removed without due process since 1801.

The framers never intended to disenfranchise the American citizens living in Washington. However the vote is given to the citizens of DC, it is imperative that it be given. Tuesday, September 18, 2007, Congress will be voting on a bill which would give the District one vote in the US House of Representatives. President Bush has threatened to veto this bill, but you must encourage your congressperson to vote in favor of DC voting rights. This bill will not make DC a state, nor will it give them the full representation that they deserve. I feel that it is important to preserve the District as an administrative division; however I think that a feasible compromise would be to allow the citizens of the District to vote as they did before 1801: with the state their territory was taken from. At present that would mean voting as citizens (and being counted thusly for purposes of representation) of the state of Maryland, since the section south of the Potomac was retroceeded to Virginia in 1846.

Regardless of how it's done, Congress and the President must end this injustice. No American should be stripped of his or her rights without due process, and it is time that the United States stop being the only democratic country in the world to deny the right to vote of the citizens of its capital city. Over the past week, I have biked on avenues bearing the names of all 50 states. Americans living in each of these states have the right to vote, but there is one sign missing from the pictures shown in my previous posts.

It is time for healing for that scar on the face of American democracy. It is time for the President to declare war on tyranny right here in the United States. It is time to import democracy. For some Congressmen this vote may be a simple matter of politics or principle, yet for the people of the District of Columbia it will be a matter of freedom or tyranny, of voting or disenfranchisement, of representation or oppression.

Indeed, give me liberty or give me death.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Mass Ave Traffic Keep Left"

Well, I have finished my 50 States Bike Ride with the completion of phase three. I only had three states left, and I almost tried to complete them on Wednesday, but Southeast is not such a good neighborhood and it was getting dark. Anyway, I am done, and after 67.25 miles, I am ready for a rest.

I rode two short rides today, totalling almost 25 miles. One of my rides (the red one on the map, starting lower-right, moving northwest) highlighted my new favorite street in DC. Massachusetts Avenue stretches from Maryland to the Anacostia (and actually continues on the other side into Southeast) and is a marvelous street for bike riding. It is the avenue created by L'Enfant to complement Pennsylvania Avenue; it is the same width (160 feet) and it is actually the longest street in the District. It is home to many embassies and is the northern boundary of "Downtown Washington." From American University (home to my new NPR affiliate) to Union Station, this thoroughfare makes for a thorough cross-section of the cityscape. Anyway, my favorite section is from its intersection with Cathederal Ave in Northwest to 17th Street in Southeast. Starting near the Washington Cathederal, it is a steep downhill all the way to Rock Creek, allowing me to pick up quite a bit of speed on my bike. The next best thing is the trip around all of L'Enfant's obstacles. First there is quiet Sheridan Circle, bustling Dupont Circle, busy Scott Circle, crowded Thomas Circle, rebounding Mount Vernon Square, beautiful Columbus (semi) Circle, serene Stanton Park (square), and finally, quaint Lincoln Park (square). I love the circles and squares because of the sloloming. Mass Ave is fairly flat after Sheridan Circle, but getting to the high starting point at Cathederal Ave requires a bit of steep climbing.

Anyway, I don't know why that Sydney Ellen Wade character from "The American President" has such a penchant for getting lost on Dupont Circle. It's actually pretty easy to navigate. Connecticut Ave has an underpass, so only traffic travelling to the circle has to enter it; Massachusetts Ave has express lanes (which cross into the cirle, make no stops, and cross back over on the other side); and that leaves only P Street NW, 19 Street NW, and New Hampshire Ave. Personally, I love going to Dupont Circle. Other than being the heart of Washington's gay scene, it's always busy with office workers, apartment dwellers, and those damn lost tourists (just go around again nitwit). I must say that whoever programs the traffic lights here in DC has done a bang-up job. Imagine coordinating the lights on Dupont Circle alone. Wow!
View Larger Map

This is What Democracy Looks Like!

I went down to LaFayette Square on Saturday for the March on Washington. It was quite a gathering. It reminded me of the protest I was part of in Portland in March of 2006. According to the Post, about 10,000 anti-war protesters were out for the march from the White House to the Capitol. I have lots more pictures, but I thought I'd just post a few.

All we are saying is give peace a chance...

Indeed, Track Twenty-Nine asks: 'How many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?'

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Don't Tell ME Which Zone is for Stopping and Which Zone is for Loading!

I watched "Airplane!" (1980) with some classmates last night. I love that movie. It is HILARIOUS. Anyway, I always pick up on a new bit of comedy hidden somewhere in the background each time I watch the film. It's great. Anyway, watching the film last night reminded me that getting onto a plane is actually easier than getting into my building.

You have to have a keycard to open the outside door. This reader is notoriously broken, which means you have to go in the other tower, the one with the security guard, and cross over on the second floor. You also have to swipe your card to get the elevator to ascend. Then you have to swipe your card to get into your unit, then again to get into your room. Personally, I am satisfied. I think I'm safe. Of course, if there is ever a dangerous person in the building, I can always run through the halls yelling "CLOSE THE BLAST DOORS, CLOSE THE BLAST DOORS!"

Anyway, it is beyond me why we have to swipe our card in the elevator in order to get to our floors. It isn't floor specific, so although I live on the 14th floor, I have access to all of the floors with my card. Besides which the stairs do not have keycard access; they are always unlocked. Which means that if I was a person who managed to sneak into the building, I can still do nefarious things to people who live on floors 2-16 by merely climbing the stairs. Even if the stair doors were keycard protected, however, it is easy to "tailgate" onto the elevator without a keycard. All you have to do is say "fourteenth floor please" when someone else with their keycard out gets on, because you're almost never alone on the elevator. After all, it's a sixteen story building with two elevators, there's always waiting.

The other annoying thing is when I have to go into the tower with the security guard. I've usually just returned from running errands or the like and am pissed to find that my building's keycard reader is broken. So I trudge over to the other tower with all 8 bags of groceries taking up both of my hands. The security guards usually ignore people coming in (after all, you'd hate for them to lose that game of online tetris because you broke their concentration). Of course, however, when you have 8 bags of groceries or are carrying a disassembled bookshelf that weighs 30 pounds in, they say: "Hey! Show me your keycard!" Gee, sorry officer, I don't have one. I thought I'd just break in and drop off these groceries in some unsuspecting person's apartment. If you want me to FUCKING show you my keycard, then fix the GOD DAMN card reader in my building! While you're at it fix the fire alarm in my apartment too. I'd like to at least be awoken before I die of smoke inhalation.

Anyway, there is a policy in our lease agreement which states that we can't have overnight guests. Ever. That's right we can't even bang someone in our own damn apartment without violating our lease. That's why they decided to discourage the practice by filling vital space in our miniscule apartments and giving us DOUBLE BEDS. Why? We can never legally use more than half at a time.

Anyway, I'm starting to get pissed off (if you can't tell) because this evening, I was returning from happy hour with a classmate of mine who lives five floors down. That's right. We both live in the building. We are both residents, neither of us is a visitor. So we're going into our tower (the one without the security guard) and there's a security guard outside smoking. She says, "STOP! I need to see your ID cards." Why the FUCK do you need to see my ID card? I'm about to have to insert it into a card reader 27 times in order for the door to unlock (and that's just for the outside door, it'll take 19 swipes on the elevator, and 3 more to get into my apartment). So we both have to show her our ID cards. It's none of her fucking business if I want to bring a friend upstairs with me! What if I just need to give her a textbook that she couldn't buy? Am I supposed to make her stand outside IN THE RAIN while I plead with the elevator to take me to the 14th floor?

I think I'm just going to ignore the guards from now on. If I want to escort a guest into my room to make antiwar signs, then it's none of their business. They ought to catch the bastards who smoke in the stairwell so that I have an asthma attack whenever I try to bypass the keycard reader in the elevator which has a reliability rating lower than MARTA's old faregates instead of hassling honest people who are just trying to live and let live.

I think I'll post a new sign above the door: ABANDON ALL HOPE OF ENTERING HERE, YE.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You've Got Tan Lines WHERE?

Almost forgot, I'm putting up a link to a map of my bike trips so far this week (Sunday included). Anyway, all this biking has given me a good bit of sun, and believe it or not, I've gotten three new tan lines: One across each of my wrists (because I wear gloves when riding) and one across the top of my forehead (from my helmet). It'll be okay; as the tan fades a little, it won't be so obvious. I almost fell out of my chair when I noticed my wrists.

View Larger Map

  • The GREEN line is day 1 of my 50 States Ride (Monday). It starts at the green dot-thinggy, goes to the northeast, then loops back south, goes through Washington, and ends near the red dot-thinggy. [[22.48 MILES]]
  • The RED line is part one of day 2 of my 50 States Ride (Wednesday, noon-4:30). It starts at the red dot-thinggy and goes north, west, then south again. It ends at the blue dot-thinggy, where I had dinner. [[29.17 MILES]]
  • The BLUE line is part two of day 2 of my 50 States Ride (Wednesday, 5:30-7:00). It starts at the blue dot-thinggy and goes southeast down Conn. Ave to Mass. Ave, then across the Anacostia River. It ends near the Anacostia Naval Station. [[9.54 MILES]]
  • The ORANGE line is the ride I did this suday with other people from the DC area GT alumni association. It starts at the YELLOW dot-thinggy (because Google Maps doesn't have an orange one). [[27.28 MILES]]
  • The PURPLE line is not from this week. I did it last week, and it starts at the purple dot-thinggy. It goes east, then loops around East Potomac Park, then north to Columbia Heights. [[17.06 MILES]]
  • The RED BED at the upper right is my apartment. So now you know why I want to move to the District as soon as possible. I am far out into the 'burbs.
  • The GREEN SCHOOL, also in the upper right, is the University of Maryland.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ride Like the Wind

Okay, so maybe I didn't ride like the wind today, but I was going pretty fast down Connecticut past the Zoo this afternoon. My class was cancelled today, so I was free for a day or so and I decided to put phase 2 of my 50 States Ride into effect. Anyway, not alot to say that the pics below can't so I'll keep it brief.

Today's ride was more eventful than Monday's though. (It was longer too, almost 39 miles). Just after I got off of Arizona Ave NW, I am biking up that goddamn mountain near American University and this college-aged teenager comes walking down the street sobbing vocally. I'm pretty sure I heard the words "please God" and "library" interspersed in there several times. He even had blood on his shirt, like from a nosebleed. Wierd!

I also saw the same guy twice in different parts of the city. I'm biking west on Aspen Street, near Georgia Ave and this Toyota hybrid car drives by me eastbound, so I got a good look at the driver; older man gray hair, balding, and a mustache. I only noticed because I was thinking 'I'm glad that car is going the other way, because there is NO way I could hear it behind me.' So anyway, like two hours later (maybe more) I'm going northbound on Idaho Ave, and this Toyota hybrid passes me (didn't hear it either). Anyway, it turns onto Newark Street NW in front of me, and I do the same. And as I pull up next to it at the Wisconsin Ave light, I look over and IT'S THE SAME GUY. We're like across town here! What's he doing over here? Did he like follow me with his silent car or something? WIERD!

Anyway, I'll let you get on with your perusing. Three left: Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas!