In one short week I hit the road for Colorado. So much ahead of me. It’s hard to think about what I’m leaving. The friends I’ve made here is by far what I’ll miss the most. DC is chock full of interesting, caring, cool people.
The past 9 months that I’ve been in DC I’ve lived on a block that has not gentrified within a neighborhood that has. Steps from my front door rests a bench. The bench serves as a gathering place; a refuge for locals who have lived in this neighborhood far longer than I.
Allow me to be abundantly clear. I moved into their neighborhood. I am making it more difficult for these community members to afford to live in their own neighborhood. I support the local yoga studio and the hipster coffee shop. It’s the people like me responsible for the gentrification, the “revitalization.” And I’m sorry for that.
Many of the folks who congregate on and around the bench every day suffer from drug dependency. I’ve never been so proximate to users and sellers. An intersection filled with dependency and stagnation. But also friendship and a shared history.
The first time I interacted with Earl was during this year’s epic snow storm—Snowtorious. Days after the storm this Texas girl realized how helpful a shovel could be in the snow. Earl was around and offered his services. He dug out my car and shoveled the front walk. I gladly paid him for his services and bought him a sweet tea, which was apparently the way to his heart. (I didn’t know at the time that he was diabetic.)
Earl was magnanimous. Everyone in the area knew him. On good days, Earl was seen cruising around the neighborhood on his bicycle. In between tending to my next door neighbor’s garden (which he took great pride in) he’d look after the block and keep the disarray in order. When Earl was around it put me at ease. But there were days when Earl's eyes were glassy and he wasn't really there.
On June 9 of this year Earl died. He was killed by a fentanyl overdose. He died right there on the bench.
Some of the neighbors think the bench at the intersection is causing all the problems. Gives folks a reason to hang and loiter. And they think the city should remove the bench. A petition is going around. I disagree. I don’t think removing the last anchor folks from this neighborhood have solves anything. I’m for reinvesting rather than divesting. Add another bench. Plant some flowers. Plant them in memory of Earl.