An open letter to Mikhail Gorbachev:

I hear you're coming to Washington. But judging from published scheduling maps of "summit-related events," it looks like the tour will be old hat.

You saw the White House, the Ellipse and the U.S. Capitol the last time around.

So why not see the real District of Columbia this week?

You may think you know about long lines and panic buying in Moscow, but you haven't seen anything until you've been to some of the Giant and Safeway stores east of 16th Street NW.

For weeks leading up to your visit, Americans have been having a good laugh at your expense, watching Russians snatch up sausages like they'd come off the last hog on Earth.

But you should see what happens when the meat man fills the pork bins on my side of town.

You think Lithuanians are hard chargers, try standing between the collard greens and ham hocks on Saturday afternoons.

Speaking of crowds, that was quite an assembly you had on your hands in Soviet Georgia.

But if misery loves company, ask President Bush for a drive on Georgia Avenue Friday night.

We have groups of kids stretched along five miles, from the District line at Eastern Avenue south past Howard University into the heart of the city.

This is only part of our impressive underground economy, designed mainly for black youths for whom traditional capitalism has failed.

Yes, indeed, Mr. Gorbachev, there is much more to our fair city than can be gleaned from Lafayette Square.

And I do believe you would be struck by how much more alike we are than different.

For example, as a result of our so-called war on drugs, we now treat Americans as if they were in Siberia.

We used to have this thing called the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which said that police cannot stop and search citizens at random.

But our Supreme Court must have decided that if the Soviet Union can become more democratic, we ought to become more like a police state. Nowadays, all you have to do is look "suspicious," and police can pick you up.

Another place I'd encourage you to visit is Georgetown.

This is our shining example of how you can make it if your parents have money.

It is not really connected with the rest of the city, for its residents never really overcame the fact that it had been a politically separate entity many years ago.

If events in Armenia and Azerbaijan are any indication, maybe an appearance by you in Georgetown will be just the excuse that residents need to secede and re-form their own state.

I can almost hear the tinkle of crystal as they raise a toast, "To 'New Georgio,' by Gorby!"

During the last visit in December 1987, I saw you jump out of your limousine and shake hands along Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW.

Everybody thought that was so bold.

But two years have passed, and people are now wondering if you're just another pol.

I say recapture their imagination by picking a better corner, say in my neighborhood, at 14th and R streets NW.

President Bush tried it earlier this year, with a visit to a black church a few blocks from my house. But the street was blocked off, police snipers were perched on rooftops, cops with semiautomatic weapons lined the streets and helicopters hovered.

Bush's motorcade even included a decoy presidential limousine. As it sped away, a man who looked like Bush did wave from behind tinted, bulletproof glass -- but most people were reluctant to acknowledge him lest a sudden move attract gunfire.

You could do better, Mr. Gorbachev.

You could walk right over to the Central Union Mission for the homeless and the hungry and see, firsthand, exactly what it is those guys drink from brown bag-covered bottles.

It ain't Stolichnaya, I can tell you that.

After a real visit to Washington, you might even leave America saying to yourself, "Communism may not have worked out like we wanted it, but community is still worth striving for."

And before you go tumbling down the road that Donald Trump and Michael Milken paved with greed, you might return to the U.S.S.R. just that much more determined to find a better way.