Thursday, November 30, 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 Tattletale's Episode of Double Vision

Newly married and living in a studio apartment in Northwest Washington, I saw an ad in the newspaper: for rent, Old Town Alexandria, one-bedroom townhouse, three fireplaces, $106 per month. That was 51 years ago.

A Californian, I fell in love with the cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks and 18th- and 19th-century houses, many of them not restored. Lower King Street, now the site of restaurants and shops, was home to plumbers' warehouses. It was difficult to walk there for the pipes that stuck out onto the sidewalk.

This Southern city was made up of many socioeconomic levels then, including families whose ancestors had lived in Alexandria since its founding in 1749. The 5&10 Cent Store still had signs for the lavatories: white and colored. There were professionals but not too many high-income families. They lived in Georgetown.

In 1959, we bought an 18th-century home with old pine floors and beautiful fireplaces and woodwork. I loved it then and still do, 47 years later. On both sides of our house were tenements with seven or eight apartments.

In warm weather, one of the tenants enjoyed drinking beer on the front stoop -- in his undershirt. At the time, my husband, Jeremiah O'Leary, was a reporter for the Washington Star. Jerry was also in the Marine Corps Reserve and wore a uniform for duty once a month.

One day as he was coming home from the Star, he was stopped by our beer-drinking neighbor, who whispered conspiratorially, "Mr. O'Leary, I don't want to cause any trouble, but when you're not at home, there is a Marine who goes in to see your wife."

-- Maria O'Leary, Alexandria

Home Is Where the Dogs Are

I've lived in D.C. for more than a decade. In all those years -- in Dupont, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Tenley -- I've never had a landlord who would allow woman's best friend. So when I was ready to buy, I told my Realtor that I wanted a washer-dryer in my apartment and that I needed a dog-friendly neighborhood.

Years ago, a dog mom told me: A person has a multifaceted life, but her dog has only her.

Tell that to Bella, the beagle mix I adopted two weeks after I moved in. She runs through the woods with me, but she also bounds over to greet Juci, romps with Scooter, wrestles with Ali and runs around Lola's apartment. She takes a car trip every Sunday with Lucy and Ghengis to swim in the Potomac. She ran circles around Doppler and Marceau for months until they had to agree: That puppy is fun. And her mom has made lifelong friends with the other dog moms and dads who understand: A neighborhood is not a home without dogs in it.

-- Rachel Safier, Glover Park

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