Clarencetta Jelks moved back to Adams Morgan in June, after she briefly tried living in a different neighborhood. "I couldn't stand being out of it," she said. "I'm a people person, I guess. For me, Adams Morgan really makes Washington."
"I thought the White House makes Washington," joked her visiting friend, Fritz Siegal.
"No . . . the people in Adams Morgan are real people."
Neighborhood people and visitors jammed Columbia Road between 18th Street and Kalorama Park yesterday for the fourth annual Adams Morgan Festival, where the food and funk were as plentiful as the familial spirit. Bands played cajun, reggae, Latin and jazz music, while couples waltzed, cha-chaed and fox-trotted their ways among the crowds. Children ran in between, clutching balloons and candy.
There were booths for profit: T-shirts and tote bags bearing the name "Adams Morgan," antique clothing, furniture, Mexican rugs, portrait and caricature painting, jewelry, art, and tennis elbow grease ("Pain ruining your game?" read the sign). There were professional and amateur businessmen, such as Bucky Roberts, a self-proclaimed "entrepreneur and celebrity." "Everybody knows me from the mayor on down . . . Hey! Come on back, baby. Want me to help you? What you want? Some shoes?"
And there were booths for nonprofit: for political groups like ERA, DESOC and ADA ("My heart is on the left -- ADA," was on one button); for SANE, the 14th and U streets Coalition, the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, and the Committee to Free Mao Tsetung Defendants.
There were even booths for self-help. Joe Riener, who sat at the Washington Community Therapy Guild's booth, said people came up to ask general questions about therapy, then started talking about more specific, personal problems. "We just try to get their names down and give them some literature," Riener said.
At another table, Michael Ballard was showing people how to juggle. "It's great for meditation," he said. "I try to get people to be independent. That's where the juggling comes in. You get to be able to do anything amidst great confusion."
Meanwhile, over at the aerobic rebounders' booth, massage therapist Bob Coleman was trying to get people to jump on the miniature trampolines which sold for $180 on the street, $198 retail. Exercize should be fun, said Coleman, who wears a turban to protect his head from ultraviolet rays and changes in the environment.
Coleman's turban was just one of the festival's unconventional accessories. Take, for example, Abe Kessler's cream-colored pants with brown monkeys. "Oh, like my monkey pants?" he said. "I bought them for their color. And of course, monkeys are fascinating."
Fifteen-year-old Noriko Vicenti wore an earring in her left nostril. Impressed by the Indian tradition of piercing the nose, Vicenti performed the minor operation on herself this summer. "I just went into the bathroom and did it with a safety pin." She giggled. "My friends think it's pretty cool, but I don't really care what other people think."
Fearless uninhibition pervaded the neighborhood party. "It's the quality of life here," that attracts John Reardon. Adams Morgan, he said, has "things to offer that other areas don't." The festival, with its music and food and languages, reminded many people of their native countries. Aida Burela, of Peru, called festivals like the one in Adams Morgan "great, because they unify people" and because for many, they signify "roots."