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John Kelly's Washington Live

Free-for-all Discussion

John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2004; 1:00 PM

John Kelly writes five times a week about the joys and annoyances of living in Washington. He aims to show readers the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, Bowie ...) that they know and take them places they don't know. He wants to make them see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. ("We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways," John says, "but such are the risks of the job.") His columns take a cockeyed view of the place the rest of the planet knows as the Capital of the Free World but that we all call home. John rides the Metro for fun and once kidnapped an Irishman to see what made him tick.

John was online to chat about his columns and mull over anything that's on your mind.

Post columnist John Kelly (The Washington Post)


Wednesday's Sessions
World: Greece's second bailout, 11 ET
Food: Free Range on Food, 12 ET
Entertainment: Reliable Source Live, 12 ET
Style: 30 Lessons for Living, 12 ET
Weekly Schedule

___ Message Boards ___
Weigh in with your opinion on the latest news and analysis 24-hours a day.

Readers Are Talking About...

This week's columns:
Into the Mouths of Babes (Post, Dec. 17)
A Sister Steps Up to Help (Post, Dec. 16)
A Puzzle in the Shape of a Girl (Post, Dec. 15)
For One Little Boy, a Shot at Normal (Post, Dec. 14)
Answer Man: A Gate to Summers Past (Post, Dec. 13)

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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John Kelly: What am I going to do with my $2.35? That's how much I saved yesterday morning by getting a free ride on Metro, courtesy of that company that wishes I would mention its name right now. A quick search of the Web reveals that $2.35 will buy two ounces of Cover Coat opaque underglaze paint in Arctic White or Sunset Gold. Or 104 Redi-Tag permanent index tabs. Or a package of Spring Queen Chinese cabbage seeds. Or the Portland General Electric utility.

Oh, wait, that's $2.35 BILLION.

And if I had $2.35 billion, I could buy a goshdurn baseball stadium myself and end this Washington Nationals/Linda Cropp/Tony Williams/MLB horror show once and for all. Ms. Cropp's shock announcement did have one benefit: For the first time in as long as I can remember, there was not a single story about Iraq on the front page on Wednesday.

Can this marriage be saved? My recommendation is that MLB let the city keep the naming rights money and that the city abide by the rest of the deal Tony Williams negotiated.

But I really don't have time to solve this baseball mess. It's a week before Christmas and I haven't bought a single Christmas present. No, I take that back. I've bought one pathetic, uninspired present for My Lovely Wife. I foresee a grim week ahead.

Let's not talk about that for the next hour, though. Let's talk about what you're going to spend your $2.35 on, or what you think of the Nationals, or the strangest thing you ever swallowed.

To recap this week's columns:
Monday was on the old Water Gate concert space on the Potomac. Tuesday saw the debut of my assistant, Julie, writing about a delicate operation at Children's Hospital. Wednesday was a sort of medical mystery. Thursday Julie wrote about a girl who donated some of her marrow to save her brother. And today's was about the wacky things kids think are edible.

Hey ho, let's go...

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Arlington, Va.: In reference to your article on Water Gate, I remember when the original wax museum was down in that neighborhood and I remember that it was moved in the early '60's to a place at 4th and E SW. That location has been closed for years and I presume that we have to go to larger cities to see something made out of wax.

washingtonpost.com: Answer Man: A Gate to Summers Past (Post, Dec. 13)

John Kelly: I actually had the horror of getting locked inside that wax museum with my grandmother when I was a kid. Not the one near the water, but the one on E Street SW. Daniel in the Lion's Den was the last exhibit and after the lights flashed for some son et lumiere, they went out completely. Momsie and I didn't want to walk all the way back through the creepy museum (shades of Vincent Price), so we banged on the nearby exit door until a security guard came. We got free passes, but never used them. Later that space was turned into a really good rock club that I still miss.

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Rosslyn, Va.: I actually had a very good experience with city management over the past month. Most of the street lights were out in Rosslyn where I usually walk home. Since it now gets dark out before 5pm, it wasn't exactly a safe walk home after work. I contacted the Arlington dept. that deals with street light outages and they have since been fixed. The personnel I dealt with were terrific and now all of the lights work down the streets where I walk. I know I along probably with many others are grateful that we are no longer walking in the dark to get home.

John Kelly: Congratulations. Isn't it nice when something actually...works? I had a similar experience with--brace yourself--the DC government. And not only the DC government, but DC parking. I parked at a meter near Children's Hospital the other day, stuck a quarter in and saw that it gave me 21 minutes, instead of the 30 it was supposed to. My second quarter didn't add any time, then the display on the meter read "FAIL." I thought I'd have to move to another spot. Then I remembered that you can report broken meters. There's a number right on the meter. I whipped out the cell phone and called, expecting to get a recording and be put on hold. Both those things happened, but only briefly. After just a minute or so a live person came on the line, took down some information and then gave me a reference number, presumably to use should I have gotten a ticket. Which I didn't.

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Rockville, Md.: You say you're the answer man? Leiby says he's the know-all. What gives?

John Kelly: I don't think those are mutually exclusive. Leiby already knows everything. He's godlike in that respect. I, a mere mortal, have to scurry around to find the answer. But doesn't Leiby call himself quidnunc or nincquid or nincompoop or something?

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Washington, D.C.: Metro is contracting Southwest Airlines to see what they can do to improve their customer service why does that strike me as just being wrong. I can see them contacting Disney or Mariott as those are two well respected companies. I refuse to fly Southwest for the simple fact that it's dirty and I don't feel safe on their planes and there is nothing special about their customer service. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting outside sources to see what's wrong, Metro should get customers to let them know how to fix the system. Many of us work in a customer service industry whether it be for the government or a non-profit. Another example of metro wasting money when riders would gladly tell metro what's wrong and how to fix it for free.

John Kelly: Oh I kind of liked Southwest the first few times I flew it. Then I realized that all the jokes were scripted and that passengers got a bit desperate when it came time to get their laminated boarding pass and then board the plane in numerical order. But the airline is seen as a success, so why not at least talk with them? And involving passengers more, the way other cities' transit authorities do, is part of Metro's new plan. That's a step in the right direction.

Yesterday I wondered whether a different company should sponsor free rides EVERY day. "Today's commute is brought to you by Crest Whitening Toothpaste, now in convenient travel size." It would be like taxing businesses to build a ballpark.

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Wahington, D.C.: Are you sure those waterfront concerts stopped in 1965? I was only 7 then, and I distinctly remember going to at least one when I was older, maybe as late as 1970-71.

John Kelly: I am sure they did not end in 1965, as several readers pointed out and which I will clarify in Monday's column. While the barge was retired in 1965 (it was apparently falling apart), the concerts continued until 1971, but the orchestra was moved to a bandshell on the shore.

I should have asked Leiby.

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Anonymous: Inauguration Update? What's news about the Inauguration this year? Are you getting out of town or staying?

John Kelly: Oh I'm staying. Where else would I go? I haven't been invited to a single party, but it's a Washington thang and I wouldn't want to miss it, even if I do have to experience it from afar. Anyone here got anything good planned, inauguration wise?

(By the way, you do know that the word "inaugural" comes from the guts of birds, don't you?)

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Frederick, Md.: Jenna wants to be a public school teacher? They didn't offer bartending classes when I went to public school!!

John Kelly: Bada boom!

I was actually thinking about this the other day. She's kind of damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. If she tries to be a school teacher, some people will accuse her of trying to curry favor, burnish her image, make her father look good. If she heads off to a lobbying firm or an investment bank, those same people will accuse her of being a greedy pig hoping to cash in on her father's name. It might actually be good for our public school system for Dubya to get some perspective from someone on the front lines. (The education front lines. There's a lot of other front lines out there these days.)

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Anonymous: Can we refer to the Nationals as the Possibles from now on?

John Kelly: Yes, because then it's very easy to start calling them the ImPossibles.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dear John,

Were you one of those guys in college at Journey concerts who used to pump their fist in the air when they played "Don't Stop Believin'"?

Just wondering...

John Kelly: No, I was one of those guys at the Elvis Costello concert in a skinny tie and pointy shoes, bopping up and down to "Pump It Up.'

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Miles City, Mont.: I believe you must be an American. If so, why do you file UNCONSTITUTIONAL IRS form 1040s? Since the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has never been ratified and that makes the IRS and Federal Reserve (neither agencies of the U.S. government anyway) 2000% completely illegal.....why are you so ridiculous and moronic to file "taxes" that are mere cash infusions to the BMITW.....biggest mob in the world?

John Kelly: You, sir, are an ass. Why wouldn't you want to pay taxes? Do you like being protected by an army? Do you like driving on a highway? Do you like being treated by drugs developed with the help of government grants? Do you like employing the learning you gathered at a public school? Do you like checking a book out of the library?

All of these things are paid for by taxes. If you really hate taxes so much go dig a hole in your backyard and live in it and don't ever talk to another soul. I'd be happy to pay more taxes if it made our country better: my fellow citizens healthier, my skies cleaner, my children smarter. But then I'm not a greedy SOB.

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Anonymous: Wow. You type responses almost as fast as the Sainted Bob Levey Himself.

But not as fast as the Somewhat-Less-Than (for suitably large definitions of 'somewhat') Saintly Weingarten. - wiredog

John Kelly: Weingarten is in a class by himself. Even so, he sits at the back.

(He also starts answering his questions for the next chat about 15 minutes after his previous chat ends. He should be institutionalized and he knows it.)

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Fairfax, Va.: There's a man that I've encountered on the orange line metro 5 or 6 times that annoys me and I'm not sure what to do. He sings a hymn with "Come and worship ..." twice through, says something about Jesus and then moves to the next metro car. He's still doing it (today was the latest encounter)and I don't think it's appropriate. What do you suggest?

John Kelly: I've never had the "pleasure" of encountering this fellow, though Marc Fisher did a column on him. (It sounds like he moves on pretty quickly from car to car. (The hymn-singer, not Fisher.) But I find Metro singers annoying, and in fact did a column on one.

You could mention him to a Transit cop if you see one. I don't know if it warrants hitting the intercomm button.

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washingtonpost.com: Marc Fisher column:
A Lone Voice Of Joyfulness Riding Among Us (Post, Dec. 25, 2000) John Kelly: Here's Fisher's column, from four years ago.

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washingtonpost.com: Tales From the Metro (Post, April 6) John Kelly: And mine from last April.

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Washington, D.C.: I loved that old wax museum! As a little boy, I cried when it was moved to Minneapolis in the early '60s. They opened another one, never quite as special, but then that one was moved down to Texas in '71 or so. I keep hoping that someone will bring a wax museum back to DC, but heck, even if they tried, the Council would just foul it up.

John Kelly: There's the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, if you MUST have wax. I've never been to Madame Tussaud's. What is our attraction to simulacra? Besides the obvious one, which is that it's fun to say "simulacra"? (And even more fun to say "simulacrum.")

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John Kelly: sigmoidoscope.

Sorry, I was just looking up the correct spelling of "simulacrum" in my dictionary and that jumped out at me.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: How much is Peter Angelos contributing to The Cropp for Mayor Campaign?

John Kelly: Wouldn't it be great to find some canceled checks to that effect?

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Maryland: The next time you are Philadelphia, drop by the Mutter Museum. They have a collection of objects removed from digestive systems. It is quite fascinating and somewhat disturbing. I love that place.

Mutter Museum

John Kelly: Forget the Liberty Bell. Hair balls and ingrown toenails!

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Gaithersburg, Md.: John,

I once saw a lady who swallowed a plastic fork (no kidding). She was at a picnic and had an itch at the back of her throat ... you can probably figure the rest out. Anywho, since plastic forks down show up on an X-Ray, off to the O.R. she went. Moral of the story: if you're going to swallow a fork, make sure it's metal.

John Kelly: Man that's gross. Wasn't there a shish-kabob skewer around somewhere she could have used?

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Crystal City, Va.: I quite enjoyed ridING Metro on someone elses dime. I am thinkING of spendING my saved metro money for a holiday present. I think buyING something for someone else is nice. Sorry... I'm having trouble typING.

John Kelly: And you win the product placement award, you INGrate.

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Alexandria, Va.: Have you, or do you know of anyone, who has ridden to every stop along the metro? How long do you think it would take?

John Kelly: I have not, though I would like to. Others have, and we've written about them before in The Post. (I think Lyndsey Layton did a story.) There are even trainspotters who want to record seeing every single train car. I hope to penetrate their cabalistic world sometime.

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Anonymous: You should, as should everyone else, give that $2.35 to the Children's Hospital fund raiser....heck, round it up to $5!

Why didn't you think of that?

John Kelly: Oh, heck, round it up to $50.

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Waldorf, Md.: I saw to my amazement that they're already putting up the bleachers for the inaugural parade. Isn't it 5 weeks away? Aren't the sidewalks on Pennsylvania Avenue crowded enough?! Wouldn't it make more sense to wait until the second week of January or something.

Maybe it has something to do with the weather...

John Kelly: I'm sure the timeline was planned 8 years ago and they're just following orders. Weather might be a reason. It's like when you think you've got weeks to rake the leaves then it rains for the last weekend. Make bleachers when the sun shines.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Laef Guy here -- Oh, He smote me big time, just not about the leaves.

John Kelly: For those unfamiliar with this poster, he is a fellow locked in a personal struggle with God.

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Alexandria, Va.: I commute back and forth along the Fairfax County parkway every day in my car. Why are there no buses on the parkway. Many of us in Springfield would love to take an express bus on the parkway that goes directly to the Reston town center.

Is such a bus something that Jim Moran, whose district includes both Springfield and Reston, should support?

Why do the politicians not want buses on the Fairfax County parkway?

John Kelly: I confess I don't know the particulars of this situation. Anyone else out there have any intelligence? It would make sense to me to offer a reguarly scheduled bus on what I assume would be a well-traveled route. I had lunch last week with a guy who takes the bus from HAGERSTOWN every day. Why not Springfield to Reston?

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Burke, Va.: Eagerly looking forward to Linda Cropp putting forth legislation to tax businesses and use the proceeds toward education, roads, housing etc. Everyone says that would be a better use of the stadium money, but I doubt she'll be the one to actually make that happen.

John Kelly: But the thing...the thing of it...But the thing of it is...

(Sorry. That's my David Mamet impersonation.)

The thing of it is, there is NO MONEY THAT WAS GOING TO SPENT ON SOMETHING ELSE. Money wasn't going to be taken from sick babies to build a stadium. Businesses were going to be taxes (there's that word) to build the stadium. I'll go out on a limb here and say that even if baseball takes a walk, DC's schools and roads won't get appreciably better anytime soon.

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Wheaton, Md.: Is there anything you could recommend doing on New Year's Eve in DC that won't cost an arm and a leg? (besides sitting at home and drinking...)

John Kelly: Look in the Weekend section from Dec. 3. There's tons of stuff in there. A lot of area places have these "First Night" celebrations. And there's always Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, starring Regis Philbin. Other ideas?

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Washington, D.C.: John, I owe a shout out to my corner Au Bon Pain (across from the courthouse) for achieving a rarity: tasteful Christmas music. They play Xmas music continuously this time of year, but they use stripped-down, jazzy piano versions without vocals. It's unobtrusive and really even pleasant.

John Kelly: As is the music played in Ikea stores, which I'll be writing about next week. (The stores, not the music.)

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washingtonpost.com: Metro Invites Outside Scrutiny (Post, Dec. 17) John Kelly: This stray little link is for the story on how Metro will be talking with Southwest Airlines, Disney, etc.

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Fairfax, Va.: To the person who said Southwest was dirty and unsafe: Have you actually FLOWN on the airline? Best customer service in the business. All their planes now have leather seating (or are in the process of refitting). Best on-time percentage in the industry. They're one of the few airlines making money right now for a reason.

John Kelly: And here we've come full circle. A question: Are leather seats that much better than non-leather seats? And if you think so, shouldn't you just wear leather pants, and then it's like you're ALWAYS sitting on a leather seat?

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Anonymous: Re: Inauguration plans: As a DC resident and Kerry voter and volunteer, I've taken the only respectable course I could think of. I cashed in those soon to be useless US Air miles and will be on a beach in Costa Rica.

John Kelly: Now don't be a sore loser. And don't forget the sunblock.

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Washington, D.C.: I used $1.35 of my $2.05 free ride to make a stop at Union Station an stock up on Washington Nationals T-shirts for my family. Then I spent .50 on a button sporting the name of my friend's band. I'm sure the other .20 will be the sad remnant left on my farecard by the end of the week.

John Kelly: A lot of success stories started with people who came to these shores with just 20 cents. And you've got 20 cents AND some Nationals T-shirts.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: What in the world are those big plastic cases, with locks on them, that are on the sidewalk on the south side of Dupont Circle? It looks like something is stored in there, but what?

John Kelly: I haven't seen them. I'll have to take a look. Could it be where you hook up cable? Very tiny condos? Missile launchers?

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Washington, D.C.: John, what's been the most interesting holiday activity you and the family have partipated in so far?
Decking halls? Stealing mistletoe? Chugging eggnog? Or my personal favorite, finding that blasted figgy pudding?

John Kelly: So far we haven't participated in any interesting activities. (Yet another thing to feel guilty about--thanks a lot.) I did once play a Christmas party in a hastiily-assembled band that we called Boughs of Folly.

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Anonymous: Re. hymn singers: Call me a curmudgeon, but I pretty much find any form of singing in public, hymn or otherwise, to be annoying, unless it's being done by a professional or semi-professional in some sort of concert setting. Same goes for whistling and humming. The problem is, the tune doesn't sound nearly as good to the listener as it does to the singer---a phenomenon often observed on "American Idol." I figure, if you've got a tune stuck in your head, sing it to yourself, just like you would read to yourself rather than saying all the words out loud. It's a little self-centered to assume that everyone else wants to hear it. (OK, now I'm off to get some holiday spirit . . .)

John Kelly: I'm afraid I agree with you.

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Queens, N.Y.: I loved that hymn-singer --- and I am Muslim! He just says "excuse me", sings his song, then says "tahnk you" and leaves -- never asking for money. That beats ALL of the "colorful characters" I ride with on New York's esteemed subway system.

John Kelly: An opposing viewpoint...

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Burke, Va.: John, I just wanted to share with you something that inexplicably brightened my day. I was walking the dog last night when down the street came a Burke Volunteer fire truck, playing Christmas music with Santa and Mrs. Claus waving from atop the truck. This is meant for the local kids, but it made me smile and wave and actually brought tears to my eyes. Just wanted to let the volunteers who do this know that it really made my day, and that there is at least one person who values what they do.

John Kelly: Good thing they didn't take the truck on the Metro.

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washingtonpost.com: Into the Mouths of Babes (Post, Dec. 17)

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Falls Church, Va.: Thanks for responding to that anti-IRS nut/mindless prankster. I cannot comprehend the idea that all "all taxes are bad taxes" and that we would all be better off in some libertarian world where we kept all of "our hard-earned money" to allocate however we pleased in our own individual self-interest. Taxes are the foundation of civilization, not to mention the source of my income as a Federal employee who takes his job as serious as a heart attack (I am on my lunch break, of course).

John Kelly: You're welcome.

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washingtonpost.com: Metro Invites Outside Scrutiny (Post, Dec. 17)

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Washington, D.C: Dear John,

I saw you and your family on the metro a couple of weeks ago. We transferred at Fort Totten together.

Anyway, I was too shy, you were with your kids, etc, but now I wish I had come up to you with a random Amswer Man question. Like, excuse me, total stranger, but would you happen to know why the Takoma Park metro is only called Takoma?

Sigh. It would have been fun. Next time I'll try not to be such a wimp.

Signed,

A Fan Who Is Not a Stalker But Knows What You Look Like Thanks To Your Online Photo

PS: not a stalker! a fan! really!

John Kelly: I love meeting people who read the column. They often give me that priceless artifact: an idea for a column.

Speaking of being a fan: When I was about 13, my brother, father and I were on vacation in Greece, on a small island in the Aegean. At a taverna my brother and I spotted John Cleese sitting with his then-wife, Connie Booth. We so desperately wanted to talk with him, or a minimum do a silly walk past him. But we were too chicken.

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washingtonpost.com: Metro Invites Outside Scrutiny (Post, Dec. 17)

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Washington, D.C.: Why is it okay to give a half-billion dollar handout to arrogant, greedy, filthy-rich baseball owners? If Mayor Williams had offered to pony up that kind of money to, say, Wal-Mart, everyone would be furious. Why does the fact that it's a baseball team make any difference?

John Kelly: Because a baseball team will bring benefits, both tangible and intangible, that a Wal-Mart won't. Because there are plenty of Wal-Marts in Virginia and Maryland, whereas there aren't any baseball teams. Excecpt for the Orioles, I mean. And they're in BALTIMORE!

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Anonymous: Re. cost-effective New Year's: "First Night" street festivals in Silver Spring and Alexandria (probably others too, I don't know of them.)

One of the best New Year's I spent was with a friend at the Tastee Diner. Jan 1 was our waitress' birthday, so the other staff brought her a cupcake with a candle on it at midnight.

John Kelly: I had a fun time at First Night Leesburg about 10 years ago. A bitterly cold night, but all the candles looked lovely.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Re Leather seats: Definitely not a plus in my book. I think they're actually kinda icky-feeling; especially wouldn't want to fall asleep with my face in a leather cushion and suffocate.

But they are durable and stain-resistant, and give a classier vibe than vinyl.

John Kelly: I confess: We have a leather couch. And a leather armchair. And a cow.

No, no cow. And no leather seats in our cars. But if I had a Jaguar or a Rolls-Royce, I'd want leather seats. I don't think an airplane needs them, though.

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Anonymous - re: Dupont cases: Those plastic cases are on the very south of the circle, right over the overpass where Conn Ave. goes under the circle. I've seen 'em too, but no guess what's inside.

John Kelly: Some answers are trickling in....

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Plastic Cas, ES: I haven't seen them myself in Dupont Circle, but they sound like the bicycle lockers that Metro's been installing. Brown or orange, probably about 4-5 feet tall and as wide?

John Kelly: Could be?

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Arlington, Va.: I think those plastic cases with locks by the Dupont Metro are to lock bicycles in.

They have something like that at the Silver Spring Metro station.

John Kelly: The ones in Silver Spring are pretty big. Bicycle-size in fact. Are the Dupont ones that large?

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Anonymous: Christmas Shopping Suggestions! John,

We need to band together and support our local stores. There are a number of little communities (Takoma Park and Kensington and Ellicot City spring to mind) where -every single store- is family owned & operated. High quality merchandise. Friendly & informed sales people. Beautiful holiday shopping experiences.

We really owe it to ourselves to ensure that these places survive. Big box stores have their place -- but please people -- let's support our local small businesses this season!

Happy Holidays.

John Kelly: Hear hear.

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Anonymous: New Year's Eve: There were a bunch of "free and cheap" bar and restaurant options in today's Weekend section cover story.

washingtonpost.com: Find the Right Party for You (Post, Dec. 17)

John Kelly: Check it out.

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Waldorf, Md.: I once rode the entire Metro line (in 1994) and even picked up a stamped bus transfer for each station I hit! All in the name of love....my girlfriend (now wife) LOVED Metro, and I thought it would be a fun day to collect all the transfers and create a huge Metro Map out of them and surprise her! Oh those college days...

John Kelly: Oh you crazy kids. What will you do next?

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Anonymous: (Im)-Possible Fan: I think the previous poster was being sarcastic too! If the stadium deal dies, then Cropp should repropose the stadium tax structure to get more money for other city agencies--not that they spend what they have wisely now. That's what really frosts me. I've read that the city spends more per student than average school systems, but gets horrible results. The truth is that no matter how much money the school system spends, nothing can make up for the problem of poverty ridden families where the parents are absent.

Cropp is a fool because the baseball team was the closest thing she'd ever get to a commuter tax. All those suburban dollars spent on DC entertainment--now nonexistent.

I never stay downtown for entertainment--I would have probably gone to at least two ball games a month.

John Kelly: I think you articulate your position well.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Leather seats, ugh. Hot in summer, cold in winter, plus they stick to your skin. Give me cloth any day! (And I hate Southwest, if only for the corny jokes. Funny the first time, not so much the fifth. I take Northwest now.)

John Kelly: Notice how there's no SouthEAST or NorthEAST airlines?

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Arlington, Va.: I know it's your job, but thanks anyway for writing all those columns about the great things that happen at Children's National Medical Center. Now, come on, people, send in some money!

John Kelly: Speaking of commuter tax, shouldn't we have a chat tax, with proceeds going directly to Children's Hospital? What are you guys good for? Ten bucks each?

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Washington, D.C. Sports Fan: Last week we were discussing the symbolism of the 9 stars in the Nationals logo... I thought you might enjoy the Wizards' PR description of their own logo:

"The new Wizards logos, created by the NBA in collaboration with Nike, contain three vibrant colors: blue, black and bronze. The color blend represents the explosive energy that the basketball club brings to life...

"The team's primary logo features a wizard leaping outstretched past the moon while holding a 'burst of magic' in his right hand and spinning a basketball in his left hand. The Wizard, with a 'W' emblazoned on his chest, is classic and precise. The 'burst of magic' symbolizes the strength of the franchise, and the spinning of the ball represents the team's talent. The moon takes on the appearance of a basketball and stands for the heights to which the franchise hopes to rise."

"The name depicts energy and an omnipresent power and brings to light the wise and magical nature of the team."

You can't make this stuff up. Well, actually somebody must have, but -I- can't.

John Kelly: You know, there's enough symbolism there to make a "National Treasure"-style movie. A fortune buried under the floor in MCI Center?

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Anonymous: Anyone know how loud the explosion will be tomorrow when the civc center is blown up and follows baseball into oblivion?

John Kelly: I was thinking of going, adn bringing the kids, but I saw that officials are asking us to stay home and watch it on TV. What channel is it going to be on? I still don't have cable.

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Kensington, Md.: In defence of the online financial institution who saved me $3.10 yesterday, I have to say I've been banking with them for the past 2 years, the intrest rates are GREAT, and I've NEVER had a problem or issue! The best part, when you call their customer service line, you get a HUMAN - without even pressing 1 at all!!! I find that very exciting in this day and age.

And no, I don't work for them. I'm just a 20something trying to eek the most out of my measly salary in expensive DC!

John Kelly: Interesting that you live in KensINGton...

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Rockville, Md.: Southwest Airlines: As for safety, more people have died in Metro accidents than have in Southwest accidents.

John Kelly: Ouch! Maybe that can be the first thing Metro asks them about.

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Arlington, Va.: How is your move-in process going? We moved, then moved out again to get our floors refinished and are now finally settling in. Unfortunately, our storage "pods" come back on Sunday so we'll have even more crap (stuff) to unload. I feel like I've contributed so much to the economy that we should start to see another surplus starting next year.

John Kelly: The Amish raised a shed in our back yard a few weeks ago (it was just like "Witness"), so now we can move stuff from the garage to the shed. And then from the basement to the garage. And then from the living room to the basement. In a few years, we should be all moved in.

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Anonymous:
John,

What's the best Holiday party in town? What's your favorite New Year's Day DC activity? - N. Pole

John Kelly: In the past we've done the Billy Goat Trail on New Year's Day. It's bracing. That really steep part where you have to basically plummet down a sheer cliff face is worrying me, though. I don't know if we'll do it this year.

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Wheaton, Md.: I'm actually in Silver Spring but if that Laef guy is too I don't want to be smote by accident. Anywhooo, do you think the people of DC want baseball or the people of the DC suburbs who don't want to tredge all the way to B-More? The most vociferous complaints regarding this waffling seem to come from people who live outside the district and not the people who live in the city.

John Kelly: Well you've hit on it.

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Fairfax, Va.: Don't get me wrong; I love IKEA. I just can't get rid of the thought that there are people that have wandering, wandering around that store for months...just can't find the exit.

John Kelly: That's sort of what my column will be about.

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Washington, D.C.: I saw on the evening news that Children's Hospital's toy cabinet is virtually bare for Xmas. They are getting about one donation a day.

What does one do to help?

John Kelly: If you're interested in donating toys, here's the deal:
The hospital's toy drive started Dec. 15 and goes through Dec. 23. Donation hours are weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends 11 to 2. You can just drop them off at the hospital, which is on Michigan Ave. NW, just off North Capitol. There's a wish list for toys they want at target.com and walmart.com. For info, call the hospital's Volunteer Services at 202-884-2062.

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John Kelly: Okay, that's all the time we have today. We had a lot of great questions, including many I didn't get to, but I need to go buy some Christmas presents (or sneak into Children's Hospital unobserved with an empty sack).

Thanks for joining me today. I got to have washingtonpost.com's Eleanor Hong in my office, passing the chat baton to my new assistant, Julie Feldmeier. Thanks to them both.

I'll be in the paper over the holidays, but my chat will go dark till Jan. 7. See you then. And don't forget Children's Hospital. Happy winter solstice.

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