Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wonderful Son (Summertime edition)


We truly have a wonderful son. He put up with DC heat, politicians, bureaucrats, and strange nutrition. And he smiled throughout, and made things easy on his dad.

First up on Monday: Groundbreaking for the new Park Place development in Petworth. (Links to news stories.) This event served mainly to prove, yet again, that politicians look silly with hardhats and shovels. But it's also going to be a good thing for our neighborhood: they're developing the site directly above the metro stop, with street-level retail and 150 new condos (20% of which will be "affordable.")

Of course, there will be construction-related hassles, and parking is about to get a lot worse...but it will reduce the walk to the nearest coffee shop from .5 miles to 500 feet. And nearby parcels have already been assembled for other developments. And the local grocery will continue to improve, and maybe get supplemented by an organic grocery. And New Hampshire Avenue will be planted with trees in the median strip.

But the weather was hot. And our Boy can't take much heat. His total exposure was 30 minutes, partially under the shade of his stroller, and with cold water always on offer. I got to hear three or four speeches and watch the shiny shovels strike the dirty dirt, and then we went to the reception at the Sweet Mango Cafe across the street to cool down. (The speeches were mercifully brief, especially considering the lead-off speaker is running for mayor. Adrian Fenty's got my vote...and even this loudmouth agrees.)

We didn't stay at the reception long; just long enough to talk with the Monkey Mama's yoga instructor (a local business leader) and a couple of community activists of my acquaintance. There were a couple of protestors chanting "Affordable housing YES! Gentrification NO!" I asked one of them, "What about a little of both?"

But the Boy and I had bigger fish to fry: the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Reglatory Affairs (DCRA).

I was up until 2am the night before revising my drawings into plans. After being invited to resubmit my permit application, I got some input from my neighbor the engineer over the weekend. There wasn't really time to juggle the homeowner-engineer-contractor-architect-client-etc. input into the project. But there never is, right? The architect always wants to do something the engineer doesn't want, and then the client changes his mind, and then DCRA gets their say, and the dance begins again. That's why construction is hard.

The Boy fell asleep on the walk between the Metro and the DCRA. It was about 6 or 8 blocks, and I covered his stroller with a light-blocking blanket. He had eaten potato and broccoli just before we left, so he was in pretty good shape. He slept through my pick-up of the surveyor's drawings I had ordered Friday. Then he slpet through the first meeting with the Homeowner Center expedited-fast lane-pilot project. My permit was not expedited, nor put in the fast lane, nor a model for any other project. As an inspector kindly told me later, "You're just the same as all these other shmucks." (It really did come across kindly, though.)

The Boy woke up just as I was taking a number to line up with the shmucks. We couldn't leave the waiting room, for fear of missing our number being called. (Later I found that I could see the number being called on a red LED display through a glass partition, so I expanded our pacing range.) And I couldn't know how long it was going to take. And although I remebered his premeasured baggie of formula powder -- honest, officer! -- I had forgotten the premeasured bottle of water. I was so intent on keeping it nice and chilled against the heat that I left it in the refrigerator. So I did a little amateur potion-making in his sippy cup, and the Boy was satisfied.

This is where the true wonderfulness of our son comes in. He was calm, relaxed, and pleasant for two hours while the Monkey Daddy waited for the number to be called. He was curious, so I had to follow him around and keep him out of trouble. ("Sorry about that thick roll of architect drawings, sir!") But he was enjoying the busy room full of applicants and inspectors, a melting pot of developers, architects, engineers, homeowners, agents, facillitators, clerical staff, a security guard, and a janitor. We played games while he sat in his stroller. In particular, he is getting good at throwing a water bottle for distance. This cracked him up...to the delight of at least one shmuck who was watching. Even with a fullish diaper for the last few minutes, he only fussed just as our number was called.

Anticlimax. I was informed of my shmuckiness, and told to call back in a week or so. ("Call back Friday, and see what happens." --- "I appreciate your optimism.") Since the excavation was complete and ready for cement and rebar, I was hoping for sooner rather than later. We'll find out more Friday. Or Monday. Or whenever.

I changed his diaper and we went back out into the heat. But only 6 blocks later, we were at the doors to the Monkey Mama's office, and out she came. We cooled off in the Building Museum, and we fed him chick-pea salad and bits of my veggie sandwich. He was so happy to see his mama, and to crawl around on the vast indoor expanse of carpeting (with a foutain!) inside the museum. He did manage to mug a toddler, before I could pry his hands off the kid's hair. (This is a troubling behavior worth keeping an eye on.)

But we said our goodbyes and metro'd back to the house. Back in his home environment, he was just as happy and relaxed as he could be. Some playtime, some dinner, the return of Monkey Mama, then bathtime and bed.

I was hoping that his adorable face would have some juice at the DCRA. To show you just how demented an institution the DCRA is, it did not.

I feel so fortunate to have such an easy-going, happy kid.

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