Appreciating What’s Special About The Wallach Neighborhood

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” – Oscar Wilde.

There’s great truth in that, and great wisdom in the entire concept of the Thanksgiving holiday. In our house, it’s rivaled perhaps only by Derby Day…and even at that it’s not much of a contest. We had big ones, where we had to string together multiple tables to get everyone seated together, and small ones with no-one more than Craig and I. We’ve cooked in the old barely-to-code kitchen with little more than a roll-around oven and two heating elements, and now in the new stainless steel dream where practically anything is possible.

Some of the guests were ours, some where friends of friends, and I can recall a few who literally seemed to just wander in off the street. To be fair, I’m sure a few of the people who came over the years I didn’t particularly like the rest of the year. But in the Thanksgiving holiday bubble, all that falls away. It’s just a brilliant little holiday, and calls to mind just some of the things I’m thankful about my neighborhood:

  • My crazy good neighbors. Wallach is a little one-block, one-way street. The houses are shorter and smaller than its neighbors and the street more narrow. The DC Historical Society notes that Wallach was the place where the domestic help lived, when they weren’t working in the larger 3 or 4 level houses on T, S or R. As such there’s always been a sort of Sesame Street vibe to the street. A place where you know all your neighbors – even the crack dealers (which were many.) A lot of our life together is actually on the street: neighboring kids playing, neighbors shooting the breeze about this or that, street mates pitching in to shovel cold snowy walks or sharing food at Guy and Dan’s in the summer. It’s a special place, largely because of the people.
  • Holiday parking. Especially for the big days – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – Washington DC in general empties out. And with it go a lot of cars. As a rule it doesn’t seem our neighbors leave town much on the holidays, but with everyone else gone, the streets are empty and quiet. And let’s face it: not having to battle to park, or constantly dodging dump trucks on the street and delivery trucks in the alley, is a little pleasure. Like finding a dollar bill waded in you pocket; a small and unexpected gift.
  • The just about everything. Even with the most recent trend toward mono-culture, the neighborhood still has lots of little things that make a place rich. When the dog is ill, we walk to Doc Wendy & Doc Sarah. If I suddenly run out of Madagascar nutmeg or Vietnamese fish sauce in the middle of a storm, it’s a good bet Yes! Market will have it. There’s a post office and a dry cleaner and a check-cashing place all in one block. Edge’s and Mitoni’s both offer great razor cuts without the fuss, The Saloon and Pica Taco never disappoint, and the best venue for music in the nation, 9:30 Club, is a short stumble from home.  Of course, we have lost some good friends lately – Raven Arts, Coppi’s, the U Street sandwich shop (which made THE best tuna melts ever!) Pollys, and Ruff N’ Ready are but a few. Even the dingy liquor store run by the Koreans who spent their day shouting at people behind plexiglass – it somehow made the neighborhood richer. I know that change happens; I just hope that future change keeps the neighborhood as diverse as it historically was, rather than becoming little more than bars and restaurants I can’t afford.
  • The green. All around this area, just as on Wallach, people often have tiny gardens. Wee little plots of land in the front – and that’s if your lucky. Some neighbors on the South side of Wallach just have sidewalk and stairs. Yet almost without exception, people really try to make what little space they have green and bright and lush. Some are neat and some are a higgle-piggle, but they all add color and beauty and smells in the Spring, Summer and Fall.  Growing up in rural Michigan, land was something you had so much of you really didn’t think about it. It was there to be used. Here, space and land is so precious that people squeeze every little drop out of it…and the result is a riot of greenery.
  • My partner. I think even if I were a single guy living in a basement on Wallach I’d find it a fun and special neighborhood. But getting the chance to live together with my partner Craig is the capstone. No matter how exhausted from work or toil, there’s never a time I don’t want to go out on a walk with Craig and the dog. I’ve strung holiday lights at other places, but it’s never as much fun as doing it with Craig. Kitchen aromas somehow smell better with Craig there to enjoy them.

So I’m once again giving thanks for those things we should gladly give thanks for: dear friends near and far, hopeful good (or better) health, enough money to live modestly and put a little aside. But this year I’m making special note of all the things that my life on Wallach Place so fortunate. Here’s hoping that all can feel so blessed in their lives.


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