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Shout Out: Street Sense

5 Dec

When I first encountered Street Sense vendors upon moving to DC, I was skeptical. I generally don’t like strangers talking to me, much less trying to sell me something. But then I learned more about the program and became an A #1 fan. In fact, I was quoted in their annual report (holla!).

DC has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country—Street Sense gives homeless an opportunity to earn income by selling a biweekly newspaper. Vendors pay 35 cents for each paper (to cover the cost of production) and then sell each for $1. The paper focuses on issues surrounding homelessness, and many vendors also contribute to the paper by writing articles, works of fiction, or producing artwork. On average, a vendor earns $45 a day.

I didn’t realize how incredibly ignorant I was about homelessness until I started reading Street Sense. I find the vendor profiles particularly enlightening—each person’s story and situation is different. I also really enjoy my interactions with the vendors, most of whom are very friendly and really appreciate.

Now I make sure I always have a dollar in my wallet, so that when I see a vendor I can buy a copy. It’s frustrating for me to see so many people walk right on by, not bothering to give a dollar and a few moments of their time.

Become a fan of Street Sense on Facebook, follow Street Sense on Twitter, but most important, buy Street Sense!

Neighborhood 101: Clarendon

28 Feb

Arlington County in Virginia is broken down into neighborhoods that are often referred to as if they are towns in and of themselves. Of these, Clarendon has the liveliest night life scene, and it’s also a bustling residential area and very pedestrian-friendly. Clarendon is rapidly changing, there’s always a new restaurant or store popping up—and they are getting yuppier and yuppier. I’m not saying that in a negative way, it’s just the plain truth. Ethan Allen, lululemon, Pottery Barn, Anne Taylor Loft, Mac Store—Clarendon has it all. And the Whole Foods parking lot is just plain crazy. CRAZY I say!

Two of my favorite people, Susan and Steve, took me on a lovely walk around Clarendon to discuss its ins and outs. They live in what they call the “yuppie ghetto” of Clarendon as their apartment building is one of the older brick buildings located off of Lee Highway and not one of the shiny, new (and much more expensive) complexes closer to the Metro station.

Getting there:
Clarendon Metro Station (Orange Line) is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. Depending on where you’re going, Court House and Virginia Square (Orange Line) are also very close. But if you live in the yuppie ghetto, you’ll probably prefer to take one of the convenient buses to work instead of Metro.

Regarding parking, until recently there was a municipal parking garage that was free, but alas that’s a thing of the past. There’s several garages though and they aren’t terribly expensive. There’s also metered street parking, but pay attention to which ones are free on weekends and which ones aren’t because they are diligent ticketers. Street parking on residential streets is discouraged but also a possibility depending on when you’re there.

One way streets Clarendon Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard are two of the neighborhood’s main roads. They run mostly parallel but at one point come together, which can be kind of confusing. Like in DC, streets in Arlington are named alphabetically (Adams, Barton, Cleveland, etc.).

This church was torn down to make room for affordable housing, which has caused a bit of a stir from nearby residents.

Hot Spots:

  • Whitlow’s – This bar and restaurant is one of the most popular hangouts in Clarendon. And soon they’ll be debuting a brand-new roof-top tiki bar.
  • Clarendon Ballroom – When I first moved to Northern Virginia someone described the Ballroom in two words: Meat Market. That’s all I needed to insure that I’d never, ever go in. But it’s very popular.
  • Clarendon Grill – A great place to see local music.
  • Hunan One – Much to my chagrin I JUST found out about Hunan One about a week ago. This place is the best pre-party hangout you could ever imagine. Good food and cheap, cheap drinks.
  • Galaxy Hut – I really heart this place. It’s like a charming dive bar.
  • Liberty Tavern – One of the best meals I’ve had since moving to the DC area was here. And one of the most fun nights out was here too.
  • Classic Cigars and British Goodies – In the mood for blood sausage? Look no further!
  • Red Mango – There’s always a line at this frozen yogurt place. ‘Cause it’s real good.
  • Pacer’s Running Store – This local chain, which has a location right outside the Clarendon Metro station, has a very popular “fun run” club.
  • Bake Shop – Susan and Steve ordered cupcakes from here for their wedding. Who picked them up? Sports Editor Rachel, my boyfriend and moi. Do you know what it’s like to go into a shop and say, “I’m here to pick up 200 cupcakes”? Because I do. But even better than that was when the owner helped us out to the car and said, “My buttercream’s not going to last a minute in this heat!” This has become one of my favorite quotes of all time. Oh yeah, and the cupcakes are freaking delicious.

Other places of note: Northside Social Coffee & Wine, Nam Viet, Mexicale Blues, Jay’s Saloon and Grill, O’Sullivan’s and Best Cellars.

Local Blog: Clarendon Nights

Fun Fact: Virginia bars legally can’t advertise drink specials on their websites, so visit On Tap for happy hour promotions.

5 tips to roommate success

13 Jan

The silent toilet paper war. © Miaow Miaow on Creative Commons

So you’re squirreling away toilet paper in your bedroom because you’ve bought it for the last six months and your roommate never buys it and you will not budge no matter how many times you forget the roll in your room. Sound familiar?

I currently live with two great roommates who I met through craigslist, and while I consider myself extremely lucky to have a wonderful home life, I don’t think it’s by accident. I just counted how many craigslist roommates I’ve had over my lifetime … it’s 25. Granted, I’ve lived in two group houses which partially accounts for the large number, but it’s still a lot. And I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.

I’m the girl with the crazy roommate stories—the obsessive eater roommate who insisted that our answering machine message be in French, the narcissistic roommate who ruined my pots and left a permanent indentation of her butt on the couch, the ditzy roommate who worked at a topless bar and lost her pet chinchilla in the vents.

The following is my hard-earned advice.

5. Three is the magic number. I think having at least two roommates is key. It creates a less intense dynamic and if one roommate sucks, you can vent about it to the other one. Also, say worse case scenario your roommate skips town and leaves you stuck with an extra rent payment. If there are two of you, that’d be a little less of a burden.

4. You’re not looking for your best friend. In fact, you don’t want your roommate to be your best friend. That’s a drama disaster waiting to happen. Do you think the person will be pretty quiet, clean, considerate and responsible? That’s really all that matters.

3. Create a chore chart. This might sound dorky and unnecessary, but it’s a great way to prevent future resentment and frustration. The chart doesn’t have to be super complex, but it should cover stuff like taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, mopping the kitchen floor and vacuuming. My roommates and I switch chores on a weekly basis.

2. Take time with your ad. Your craigslist ad should give a good amount of information and have some personality. I write three sections of an ad: the apartment building, the apartment and the roommates–about a paragraph each. By taking the time to put in details, you’ll be bombarded with fewer questions. Having an ad that has personality will have a greater chance of attracting the right match. For our ads, we write that The Bachelor is our guilty pleasure, and we’ll often get responses from people saying they too love The Bachelor. It’s a small thing, but it can really give you a sense of the person on the other end of the email.

1. Think ahead. If you don’t listen to any other piece of advice I’ve given you, listen to this one. Post your craigslist ad six to eight weeks in advance. You will not get nearly as much interest as you will if you post it two to four weeks in advance, but those who respond are generally much more responsible and put together.

5 questions to get answered before signing a lease

27 Sep

1. How far is the Metro? If you don’t drive to work, this question is critical. Don’t take the leasing agent’s word for it–what she might consider a “short walk” might actually be a mile. If a Metro stop isn’t close by, then see if you can commute conveniently by bus, but be aware that buses in DC aren’t known for their reliability.

2. Is there a 24-hour concierge? If not, you’ll need to get packages delivered to your work because it’s quite possible that they could get stolen from outside your door. I also feel much safer knowing that there’s someone monitoring the building 24/7.

3. What’s the parking like? Even if you get your own parking space, what about guest parking? Many apartment buildings have very limited guest parking.

4. Are there bed bugs? It’s an unpleasant topic, but DC is currently ranked 9th in the country for bed bugs. Ask the landlord but also look at apartment reviews to see if anyone in the building has complained about them.

5. What’s the laundry situation? If you don’t have a washer/driver in the apartment, make sure to look at the laundry room to see how many machines there are for the building. The last thing you want is laundry wars with neighbors.

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