My across-the-street neighbor had her house painted two weeks ago, which set off a chain-reaction of house paintings. When Wilfredo the Paint Man is done with our house, he will have completed at least five houses within three blocks.

Note to painters looking for jobs: find a gentrifying neighborhood where most of the houses look really junky with old peeling paint. Ask a fair price, do a good job. Watch the job offers FLOOD to you.

The transformation of our across-the-street neighbor’s house was impressive. It went from shabby, paint-peeling, dirty gray to a clean, smooth, dark purplish blue. It looks fantastic … and I am not a person who generally gets excited about purple houses. Inspired by the sparkley new paint job, my neighbor bought new plants and chairs, cleaned her porch and has plans to take down some fencing. Suddenly with the new paint job, all that junky stuff stuck out like a sore thumb.

We had been going back-and-forth about getting a paint job. While our house is nicely painted and re-done on the inside, it looks pretty terrible from the outside. It is light grey, with bumpy peeling paint … and some very charming patches with no paint at all. Obviously, it needs a paint job. But then we thought, there is something to be said for camouflage — no one can tell our house is nice from the outside. Burglar deterrent.

In the end, we gave in. It was so easy. There Wilfredo was, doing his great job up and down the street. Then suddenly there he was, ringing our doorbell and saying he would start the next day. So if the weather holds up, we could have a newly painted house in a few days!


I think this anecdote perfectly illustrates where my neighborhood is in the process of gentrification:

As on many city streets, we have a sidewalk in front of our house, and a stripe of dirt betwixt the sidewalk and the road. Some other streets in DC have flowers and pretty things in these “flower boxes” or “tree boxes” ( as in the picture above — that’s not my street). On our street, there are some tall, fairly attractive but incredibly stinky gecko trees. Other than that, we basically just have clay-like dirt, weeds, and people’s trash lining the sidewalk. Beautiful.

My neighbor B started a flower revolution in the spring. He took a shovel to that clay-like dirt and planted rows of impatiens and marigolds in front of his house. We did not think they would ever survive the poor conditions — bad soil, not a ton of sunlight, people tramping on them. We were all shocked when his flowers were still there a week later.

So, on Memorial Day, my next door neighbor and I also planted flowers — making it three houses in a row with flowers out front. B was very proud that he started the flower-power movement.

“Yes, I see how it is, you have to keep up with your neighbor now. Watch, I will show you how to water the flowers,” he bragged. (Read that in a very slight Madagascaran accent. lovely. I love B.)

Two months later, our flowers are still mostly alive, shockingly enough. People toss trash onto them, but there has not been a lot of noticable floral vandalism. Some neighbors across the street even joined the revolution in recent weeks, planting their own flowers.

So, you might say we are moving on up — fancy gentrifying street with flowers, eh? But wait.

One of my across-the-street neighbors reported that she has seen a man urinating on the flowers. Right there on the sidewalk, in the late afternoon after work.

So, THAT is where we are in my neighborhood. It’s the kind of place where people will plant flowers, and other people will pee on them in broad daylight.

I took a lovely walk tonight with some of my neighbors. They told me: 1) the fireworks will get much, much crazier tomorrow night 2) they will be likely accompanied by celebratory gunfire into the air. One neighbor said: “yes, it’s our own little taste of Baghdad.”

On the plus side, I am told (in a very uplifting tone of voice) “there’s less gunfire every year!”