In his weekly series, staff writer Robert Samuels explores the District, street corner by street corner.
Their basements were dry. The bar at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and T Street NW was not.
A day after the superstorm, patrons raised their glasses of Chocolate City beer in celebration. A toast to the sandbags that weren’t soaked. A toast to the work projects they got two extra days to work on. To having the time to hunker down and watch “The Artist.”
For through the big, glass window at the popular neighborhood bar Boundary Stone, cars could be seen cruising through rush hour without worry.
“Black-and-white movies make me feel more cultured,’’ Mark DeSantis, 24, who works with a nonprofit organization that plants trees throughout the city, said by way of explaining to a friend why he watched the Academy Award-winning film.
“It’s like we got a city-sanctioned vacation,’’ responded Danny Deveraux, 24, a graduate student in geography.
The Bloomingdale area has recently become an “it” neighborhood, thanks to the conversions of old cellars to basement apartments that have attracted an influx of young professionals and hipsters.
In recent months, new residents have learned to “fear the rain,” in the words of the neighborhood association president, Teri Janine Quinn. A typical summer rainstorm can lead to massive flooding on the street and toilets at home regurgitating raw sewage. But this superstorm brought no such thing. How ironic.
Neighborhood residents slid open the wooden side entrance and entered the dimly lit, noisy bar. The hurricane stories were shocking — mostly because they were so succinct.
“I am so relieved,” said Gina Parisi, 25, a restaurant manager. “All my friends have gotten flooded over the summer, and we’ve been lucky” this time. “But you can only be lucky for so long.”
Parisi and her roommates overstocked on cereal and carried a single sandbag to guard their basement doors. Over the weekend, her neighbors were frenzied. One placed a plastic-covered cardboard sign on the lap of a scarecrow sitting on a porch. It said, “Die Sandy Die.” Others raked up leaves and unclogged drains. They parked cars atop hills blocks from their homes.
At a table behind Parisi, a couple recounted the tale of finding a dog to foster for the day. They wanted company for their shepherd mix, Georgia, so she wouldn’t get restless while stuck inside.
“It worked,” said Bryan Williams, 35, a physical therapist.
Bryan and his partner, Brittany Degan, 29, spent Monday plucking plastic guitars, playing the video game “Guitar Hero.”
They had feared an ugly post-storm scene, with some of their friends losing their homes. But now here they were, Bryan eating a burger with aged cheddar and bacon jam and Brittany asking the waitress for additional cherries for her cocktail.
There’s a good reason why Bloomingdale didn’t flood. It did on Sept. 2 after 31 / 2 inches of rain poured in just two hours. But the rain from Sandy was steady all day Monday and early Tuesday. The water never exceeded drain pipes’ capacity, D.C. Water officials said.
The flat-screen television hanging from Boundary Stone’s corner wall was turned off; no one needed to watch the news. A man drinking a gin and tonic blamed the media for overhyping the storm. Outside, a woman smoking declared that a hurricane hitting so far north was an obvious sign of climate change.
Across the street, Shirley Brown walked out of the house with the sign that said “Die Sandy Die.” She has owned this house for 31 years and grew up in the one next door. In the past few months, flooding has forced her to replace drywall and the floors.
“I think Mother Nature saw my sign,’’ said Brown, a retired postal worker. “Isn’t that funny? All this rain, and no flood.”
The day after the superstorm, Boundary Stone’s patrons talked about checking major newspapers for the serious stuff and the blogosphere for the jokes about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s halting Spanish.
They were thankful they had no destruction to record on Instagram. Friends in New York had no power or hot water. Some had lost their roofs or homes.
Parisi placed her glass of local brew on the table and shook her head. “It really could have been us.”
— Robert Samuels
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