Barbara K. Reck enjoys a break at Java House, at 17th and Q streets NW.
Barbara K. Reck enjoys a break at Java House, at 17th and Q streets NW. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
Monday, September 25, 2006

Where we live shapes us, and we shape where we live. Here's what area residents have to say about where they live. An occasional Page Three feature.

A Drop of Paris in Washington

In a world of franchised coffee cafes, my choice is an independent, neighborhood java house not far from Dupont Circle. It has a unique atmosphere with a special attitude. Laptops and cellphones are rarely in use. The coffee is strong and the service uneven, but the mix of folks is unmatched. It's Paris in Washington. The outdoor patio faces a tree-lined street -- no trucks or tourists here. I edge myself into a table under the awning. Many patrons know my name and I theirs.

On my left, a struggling writer friend is penning his complicated Victorian novel. He's next to the Buddhist poet who always chats up the documentary filmmaker. On my right is longtime regular Jim, who has one of his sculptures on permanent display at the Hirshhorn Museum and another at the Washington Convention Center. Add to this mix a philosophy teacher, a stockbroker and one fella in a Western hat who says he hails from Texas via New Orleans and now Katrina has sent him to us. Many are clad in statement T-shirts and baseball caps with mottos they really believe in.

I paint this picture to showcase my world on a beautiful Saturday morning. It's where I read my books, sometimes write a diary, and, today, I penned this piece for The Washington Post, using a real fountain pen with purple ink. Honest.

--Barbara K. Reck, Washington

Time Takes a Toll

Thirty-five years ago, we moved to this neighborhood in Montgomery County, about a mile from the now-infamous Lake Needwood. It was a new subdivision of single-family houses occupied by middle-income families, mostly first-time homeowners. Most neighbors were white, well-educated professionals in their twenties and thirties. We were the only Asian family in the subdivision. But because we are also well-educated professionals, we got along just fine. We socialized often with one another with block parties, playing bridge and other card games. Our children went to the same neighborhood schools and became longtime friends.

Time has taken its toll on all of us, however. As more houses were built over the years, gone was the country atmosphere and easy driving. As the neighborhood has aged, we have started to lose our neighbors, especially the gentlemen, as ladies generally outlive their spouses. Those of us lucky enough to be around are bearing the burden of aging with aches and pains. Thirty-five years ago, when we moved into our new houses, we planted all the trees we could get. Now, those towering trees are becoming hazards to the houses.

-- Ronald Chu, Rockville

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