Who Defeated the 1776 Restoration Movement?

1776 signs

The 1776 Restoration Movement came to a dramatic end on August 3rd in Washington, DC.

It wasn’t the followers who deserted the leader but, instead, David “Santa” Riddell announced that he was leaving his own cult. Condemning their infighting and lack of discipline, he rose dramatically from his lawn chair to paraphrase Davey Crockett with the announcement that, “You can go to hell, I’m going to Ohio.”

After less than a month of protest in DC, it was suddenly over, as Santa picked up his chair and left, leaving his followers glumly and silently in the dark.

The Christofascist cult that was the 1776 Restoration Movement had failed. Who defeated it? Suspects include:

1. The Trolls

Life was easy on the National Mall for the 1776ers before the trolls arrived. The Park Police let them sleep in their cars and basically camp in front of the National Gallery of Art, in violation of park regulations.

Waking up in the morning, the 1776ers would climb out of their vehicles for a free breakfast as they enjoyed a spectacular view of the sun rising over the Capitol. There would be a brief “activity” like walking around with their anti-government signs and then they were free to sit and grift for money, live-streaming themselves sitting in chairs as the donations rolled in. Then more eating, a Santa lecture, karaoke and to bed in their air-conditioned cars.

While they had been trolled before by counterprotesters, they were not prepared for the unholy alliance of Defender of Ants and Anarchy Princess. Circling the camp in a van, Defender sang, “This is how legends are made” before assailing the 1776ers individually with specific and personal insults. A veteran of the People’s Convoy, he knew and hated the 1776ers for the unforgivable sin of sheltering  sex offenders in their group.

Santa knew he had violent pedophiles in 1776RM but he justified keeping them in, claiming that he knew best. He would not renounce or expel them.

Anarchy Princess, from the left of the political spectrum, was a figure so triggering that all she had to do was walk by the 1776 camp to get them in an uproar. They believed that she was a witch (“witchtifa!”) and blamed her when one of their cars caught on fire.

Rounding out this Suicide Squad (how they referred to themselves), were additional convoy veterans like Jersey Jay, Freedom Squirrel and Lori Arnold. They hated Santa and his squalid cult for turning their freedom movement into a joke, referring to the 1776ers as the “1776 Retirement Movement.”

The night belonged to them. The 1776ers could not stand their nonstop mockery and begged the Park Police to do something about it. The Park Police set up a designated protest zone, where Defender and friends yelled insults for hours, ensuring that the 1776ers got no sleep.

2. The 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement’s greatest enemy was the 1776 Restoration Movement.

On the final night before the cult dissolved, Santa said, “I can’t fight you and the government.”

Meaning that managing the lazy, entitled and hotheaded members of the movement was an impossible job, like herding cats, but some of the cats were religious zealots while others are drunken felons. All were incompetents, easily triggered by trolls and constantly falling prey to scams.

Under pressure from the counterprotesters, one of Santa’s “security team” attacked Defender and was arrested. Another one assaulted one of their own livestreamers – an ally of the movement. The 1776ers tried to intimidate their critics by zooming out of darkness on rented scooters, everyone yelling, shouting “Scootertifa!” and live-streaming themselves, with the police trying to keep people apart, like an episode of Reno 911 but set on the National Mall.

On the final night, the 1776ers abandoned their “back the blue” beliefs to turn on the police, demanding badge numbers and threatening to take the law into their own hands. It took a dozen officers to keep the 1776ers from attacking four counterprotesters who were merely shouting insults from across the park.

3. The People of DC

I’m a street photographer. I love taking photos of this dynamic city, particularly all the protests that occur. Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Pro-Trump demonstrations, anti-Trump demonstrations – I’ve captured it all.

everyone knows it's a cult

The one group that ever harassed me was the 1776 Restoration Movement.

“Hello, Joe,” was all it took. A counterprotester said hello to me and suddenly all the 1776ers swarmed around me and blasted a bullhorn in my face. Individually, they are uninspiring, but together they make a dangerous mob.

They acted like the street and “lawn” in front of the National Gallery of Art belonged to them. While they had a permitted spot for demonstrations, they preferred to hang out in the shade near their vehicles. All day they sat there and filmed people they deemed suspicious. “Possible antifa,” they’d say on their walkie-talkies as a tourist walked by their encampment.

Santa created a red-shirted security team to patrol “their” area. At night, they would hide behind trees and follow women around.

They had an enemies list and they doxxed and swatted people they didn’t like, revealing their personal information online and telling the police that they were going to harm themselves.

When the NPS permit came up for renewal, complaints poured in from the people of DC. Topics included their creepy Gestapo tactics, sleeping on the Mall when no else was allowed to, their unsanitary food preparation, their gas cans and piles of garbage, the pedophiles, the kids and dogs they had in hot cars and the fact that they were J6 insurrectionists.

The Park Police then announced that they would enforce the ban on sleeping in cars at night on the National Mall. If the 1776ers were caught sleeping in their cars, they would be arrested and their vehicles would be towed.

This action struck fear into the heart of the 1776ers. Their cars are everything to them, not just transportation but also their homes. They have everything in them – food, clothes, personal items. Without their cars, they are mere pedestrians.

Vehicles are both the strength and weakness of the convoy movement. A dozen people marching is unimpressive; but a dozen vehicles in a convoy is menacing.

If your town is overrun by a convoy, threaten to tow their cars. They will leave.

Who Defeated the 1776 Restoration Movement?

I’m going to say the trolls, who put intolerable pressure on the 1776ers causing them to crack. Who knew mockery was so powerful? You have to love an underdog story, too.

And that people from completely different political backgrounds could come together in common cause is remarkable in this divided time.

I never thought I’d talk amiably with someone in a MAGA hat on the National Mall but that happened. One afternoon, I talked to the trolls, asking them about the People’s Convoy, why it broke up and what happened to the people who were in it (moved on to similar causes). They asked me about what I thought about the 1776ers and we bonded over our shared hate of the layabouts.

The 1776 Restoration Movement did bring people together, but not in ways that they expected, uniting enemies on the right and left and bringing them together in conversation.

The 1776 Restoration Movement Loves The Swamp

there's not much movement in the 1776 Restoration Movement
there’s not much movement in the 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement has fallen in love with Washington, DC, the city that they vowed to destroy.

Led by David “Santa” Riddell, a Proud Boy, and filled with January 6 rioters, the 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM) is a right-wing cult that vowed to destroy DC. A remnant of the failed trucker convoy, they first threatened to shut down the city by blocking the highways; Washington was not impressed. They then rolled their motley collection of vehicles into the city, which they intend to occupy until the federal government was abolished and the clock rolled back to 1859 or so.

Instead, they’ve encountered a series of humiliations, from a desultory turnout for their marches to being trolled on their own livestreams.

You Can Always Go Downtown

Despite this, they’ve remained in the city. Why?

Because they’re having too much damn fun. If you watch them on their livestreams (they compulsively stream everything live on YouTube), you can see how much they enjoy life in Washington, DC.

You’re not allowed to camp on the National Mall. But because they’re a “protest” the Park Police have looked the other way.  The 1776ers sleep in their cars and monopolize the parking in front of the National Gallery of Art.

Imagine: sleeping for free in DC. Climb out of your car in the morning and enjoy a gorgeous view of the dew-soaked National Mall at sunrise. A couple of elderly ladies prepare breakfast for the group and all you have to do is endure a sermon from Santa. After that, take a stroll up to the Capitol and wave American flags around.

Marching to the White House to yell with a bullhorn

Afternoons are open. Pull your lawn chair into the shade and nap for a while. If you get too hot, get into your car and turn on the AC. Or maybe you rent a scooter and go to  theJefferson Memorial.

Hungry? Snacks are available from the coolers in the 1776RM encampment. There are also a number of food trucks nearby, offering gyros, tacos, chicken and burgers. There’s also a cafeteria inside the National Gallery of Art with a gelato stand.

But what about entertainment? If you like people-watching, 1776RM is for you. Camped out in their low-slung chairs, 1776ers watch a nonstop parade of runners, cyclists and tourists being active in DC.

Plus, the trolls! There’s always some drama going on in the 1776 Restoration Movement, from “antifa” protesters like Anarchy Princess coming by to roast the movement to incredibly complex, internecine feuds among various right-wing factions. It’s like Game of Thrones, but for fascists.

All this conflict means money for the livestreamers, who continually ask for “superchats” ($$ gifts) from their supporters watching at home. And nearly all the 1776ers are streaming, everyone pointing a camera at everyone else, to get their share of the grift.

America Loves DC

Now, Santa is threatening to leave because they’re not getting enough people at the protest. They’re down to a dozen cultists.

But they can’t quit The Swamp. It’s way too much fun.

Why go back to ordinary life when you can have a free vacation on the National Mall? Enjoying a beautiful park, taking scooter rides around, getting tacos from a food truck – you can’t do that at home.

The hypocrisy is hilarious. Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times about the city-loathing that animates Republicans.

Yet, as anyone who has traveled recently can confirm, cities are more popular than ever. Fox News says they’re super dangerous but Americans can’t stay away. In DC, there are lines down the block for museums, vast school groups posing for photos in front of the White House and dinner reservations are at premium. There is so much demand that I’ve been to coffee places that ran out of coffee and bars without beer.

Cities are where things happen. It’s where you go to start a new career, find a mate or just lead a different life. Cities are a collision of differences and out of those encounters spring new ideas that propel civilization forward.

The conservative critique of cities is preposterous. Without its cities, America would be poor and provincial.

Note too that Republicans hate cities yet choose to live in them, being ashamed of their passion for metropolitan life. They can’t stay away.

I can’t quit you….

The 1776 Restoration Movement is no different. Living in Washington is a heck of a lot more interesting than life in the country. Despite their threats, they are not going to leave. They like it too much. The 1776 Restoration Movement has fallen in love with The Swamp.

NEXT: The 1776 Restoration Movement is driven into exile.

The Humiliation of the 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement
The 1776 Restoration Movement

The gloriously incompetent 1776 Restoration Movement has gone from humiliation to humiliation, as they struggle to connect with a disinterested public and are trolled online and in real life.

When the People’s Convoy of truckers collapsed in May, not everyone wanted to go home. A tiny remnant coalesced around David “Santa” Riddell, a middle-aged Proud Boy, who promised radical action. He would lead a massive convoy into Washington, DC.

Calling themselves the 1776 Restoration Movement (1776 RM), this faction, never more than a couple dozen strong, relocated to a parking lot in Bunker Hill, West Virginia. Nearly all the trucks left, leaving the convoy reduced to mostly passenger vehicles covered in QAnon messaging and American flags.

The main issue that animated the orginal convoy disappeared too, as covid mask and vaccine mandates were lifted by the courts.

Santa and his motley crew aimed for something different, an end to democracy and a restoration of a “constitutional republic.” This meant returning the country to the 19th century.

While the People’s Convoy had been more egalitarian, 1776 RM was firmly under the control of Santa, who determined what they did, who could stay in the compound and what they believed.

The Office Meets January 6th

The difference between their wild ambitions and their parking lot existance became a source of mirth for me and thousands of others following on the Internet. They live-streamed on YouTube everything they did, from their morning meetings to their trips to Walmart.

Channels like Just a Lazy Gamer and Meanwhile sprang up to document this comedy of conservative failure, providing clips of their infighting and incompetence, sort of like The Office meets January 6th.

1776 RM constantly fell victim to trolls. The camp got excited when an anonymous benefactor promised to deliver 100 Subway sandwiches. All day they talked about these sandwiches; none arrived. A scammer promised that he would lead trucks from Texas to join them, if only they would send him money. He took their money and mocked them. The camp thought they booked evening entertainment with a band called “Johnny Troy and the Hayseeds” that unsurprisingly did not exist.

I mocked them as well, dipping into their chats to make fun of the constantly vaping Santa, their bucket-pooping (finding toilets has been a problem) and their inability to learn.

None of this mattered because every day brought a new hope, another slim reed, Santa at his morning meeting sharing yet another Facebook story about someone who heard from someone else that another convoy was coming.

Watching this, it seemed preposterous. People were sitting in a tent next to a noisy highway as Santa said that the parking lot would soon fill with hundreds of trucks. How could anyone believe this?

It didn’t matter what Santa said. He could’ve promised reinforcements from the Moon and people would’ve stayed.

Why? They wanted to believe.

Followers Are Leaders

Cults are not about the leader, they are about the followers.

It was the women that drove the movement. They were the ones who organized the meals, booked the fake bands, printed the flyers and brought in the portable toilets. Santa merely provided the inspiration for all this volunteer work.

People join a cult, not because they’re enthralled by a leader (who is often quite ordinary) but because a cult provides meaning and a sense of community.

To the outside world, 1776 RM looked like a bunch of white people living in tents next to a highway. But to people inside the cult, they were key players in a battle of good against evil.

After months of planning, they finally took action on July 4th, when they used their cars and trucks to briefly block interstates in Maryland and Virginia. Santa promised that they would be on the national news; they weren’t. They barely made the local news, lumped together with another group that blocked the Beltway that day too.

That night, they celebrated in their parking lot, recounting the details of their highway blockade like it was a great battle.

On July 6th, they drove their motley collection of vehicles into Washington and parked in front of the National Gallery of Art. Thinking that they had gotten away with blocking the highway, they would now occupy DC.

I went down there to confront them. I live in the city. I saw the Trump mobs on January 6th. No way was I going to let that happen again.

But when I saw them in person, it was such a pathetic arrangement that I said nothing. A dozen or so vehicles and some old people sitting on benches, livestreaming each other – that was the 1776 Restoration Movement. It looked dull and pointless, a blip in the life of a busy city of 700,000. If you don’t know anything about them, you’d just think they were another weird protest group.

David "Santa" Riddell shortly before his arrest
David “Santa” Riddell (center) shortly before his arrest

After I left – it was too hot for that nonsense – Santa was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who calmly walked him away and took him into custody, prompting a paroxysm of rage among the sedentary 1776 RM. He’s wanted by Maryland for blocking the highway.

Santa was released the next day and got to experience the classic reunion with his followers outside the courthouse moment, something that is a staple of the local news. Drug dealers, murderers, politicians – there’s always that shot of them walking out of the courthouse and into the arms of friends and family.

Santa told his followers about how well he was treated and that he talked to the detectives for hours. They really understood, he said. Very naive to talk to the police, for the legal system is not done with him; he faces charges in Maryland.

1776 RM is incompetent but it also contains dangerous elements. Two of their most prominent livestreamers took part in the January 6th attack on the Capitol; one of them called the insurrection amazing.

The livestreamers make money from online donations. These online supporters think that Trump will return to office, that DC is nothing but a movie set and that 1776 RM should go free the January 6ers held in the local jail.

Protesting the Protesters

I’m not the only who hate-follows 1776 RM.

Later in the week, a pair of brave incredible women went to protest the protest, standing near the 1776 RM folks on the Mall and heckling them for being insurrectionists.

While 1776 RM had spent months yelling at people with bullhorns, they couldn’t take a dose of their own medicine. Getting up from their lawn chairs, they yelled at the women and lunged at them, trying to drive them off. One of the more unhinged members of the group, Xray, slapped at one of the women.

I watched all this all unfold on the livestream. Once my work day was over, I rushed down there, arriving just in time to see Xray arrested. “I’m going to Hains Point! I’m going to Hains Point!” he shouted, as the Park Police took him away. Hains Point is the Capitol Police jail.

John "Xray" Dobbins arrested for assault by the Park Police
Xray gets arrested by the Park Police

Xray was released a few hours later. This doesn’t mean he’s not in trouble; it just means that the police aren’t holding him in jail.

For their next action, 1776 RM surprised me. They walked somewhere. I didn’t think these car-campers were capable of it. Leaving their vehicles behind, they marched to the White House with a banner. Then they read their grievances with a bullhorn, shouting across Pennsylvania Avenue at a couple of uniformed Secret Service officers.

While they were gone, MPD towed away Xray’s truck for investigation, prompting him to freak out and do the unthinkable for a member of this movement: go dark. After turning off his livestream for a few hours, he resurfaced in an undisclosed location, in the woods somewhere, ranting about being targeted by the CIA.

I can’t believe I know so much about these idiots.

Fortunately, the 1776 Restoration Movement is falling apart like the People’s Convoy did. Disorganized and fundamentally lazy, its members are drifting away while Santa and others are dealing with legal problems.

Yet, the need for meaning in American life remains. Another right-wing cult will take its place because the followers demand it. They are just waiting to coalesce around a new leader and resume the struggle that gives meaning to their lives.

UPDATE: Trolled again! Another amazing woman took over one of the group’s livestreams and shared some truth with viewers.

NEXT: The 1776 Restoration Movement learns to love DC.

The Super Bowl of Horror

Lincoln Memorial at night wide angle

For those of us who live in Washington, DC, watching the January 6th hearings is like sitting down to a Super Bowl of Horror.

I saw the mob that day. They were in my neighborhood, filling all the hotels for the first time since the pandemic began in March, 2020. Empty streets were packed with people in red MAGA hats and camouflage gear.

They were armed, too, carrying poles, ax handles, clubs, tactical batons, mace and bear spray. Men were dressed up like the National Guard, with military boots, vests, helmets and backpacks. These uniforms and these weapons were designed to communicate lawful authority, though in truth they were nothing but a mob of aggrieved white people.

After they sacked the Capitol on January 6th, I saw them march back to their hotels. There was no remorse. The mob partied that night. Even the next day, when you’d think that some sense of shame might creep in, they were still running around DC, waving Trump flags.

It was the most disgusting thing that I have ever witnessed.

To watch the first round of the  January 6th hearings, I required a large glass of bourbon. I didn’t want to watch it, but how could I avoid it?

My expectations were low, given the failure of the Mueller Report and other efforts to hold Trump accountable.

Yet, this time is different. The Committee is telling a story, without interruption from Republican vandals. They are presenting the facts, using the words of Republicans to damn Republicans.

Trump did not act alone, but had thousands of accomplices – that’s the message of the January 6th Committee. They are shining light into the dark and fetid corners of the Republican Party, exposing those who would commit treason to maintain their grip on power.

There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain. Liz Cheney

January 6th was the culmination of a campaign of terror against democracy. It was no surprise to the people of DC or, frankly, anyone who was paying attention.

Trump and his followers cannot be shamed for what they did during the months up to and including January 6th, for they feel no shame. But they can be punished, not just by the courts but by the nation as a whole.

Open Streets Opens Eyes

mural over 7th St
Mural over 7th and Rhode Island AV NW in Washington, DC

7th and Rhode Island Avenue NW in Washington, DC, is one of those intersections where you do not want to linger. It’s a traffic sewer, where two major thoroughfares for Maryland commuters collide in a chaotic and dangerous fashion. Whether you’re on foot, bike or car, it demands complete attention, lest you get sideswiped by a reckless driver running a red light.

I live eight blocks away and arrange my travels to avoid this intersection. Most of the time, I’m on my bike, so I pick alternate routes, even if they take me way out of my way. If I’m walking, I rarely go in that direction, because I don’t like cars roaring past me as I’m on a narrow sidewalk.

On Saturday, I biked through the intersection with a smile on my face. The reason was Open Streets 7th Street, where 1.5 miles of 7th St NW was closed to cars and open to people. It was a one-day street party, filled with fun and games for all ages. I checked out a new DDOT electric bus, ate a free popsicle, watched a spin class in the street, listened to go-go music and saw a constant parade of friends on foot and two wheels.

Without the constant danger of cars, you have a chance to pick your head up and look around. For example, on Saturday I noticed, for the first time, Jake’s Tavern in Shaw. Apparently they’ve been there for a couple of years. During this time, I’ve walked and biked right by the bar without noticing it because my attention was stolen by rampaging autos.

Pictured above is a beautiful mural at 7th and Rhode Island Av NW, above the old 7-11. How long has it been there? Months? Years? I don’t know. When I go through this intersection, my focus is at street level, warily eying distracted drivers for crazed maneuvers.

But coasting through the intersection on Saturday, with just people around me, I suddenly saw this mural. I was able to stop and look around the city, like it was meant to be experienced.

Open Streets 7th Street was just a single day. And only six hours of that. Drivers own the road for the remaining 364 days and 18 hours a year.

But during this brief spell, Open Streets opened my eyes to the beauty of Washington, DC, and demonstrated the old truth that cities are for people, not cars.








DC Gets the Old Post Office Back

marching past the Old Post Office
protest march at the Trump International Hotel

The Old Post Office is one of the loveliest buildings in Washington, DC. Built in 1899, this brawny Romanesque structure dominates Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol.

If you lived in DC in the 1990s, then you remember it as a food court that would fill with high school tour groups during the summer. With a glass skylight a dozen stories up, the food court was loud and chaotic but convenient to the museums on the National Mall.

You could also take an elevator up the clock tower to get a wonderful view of the Washington Monument, so close that it looked like you could reach out and touch it. Run by the National Park Service, it was free and there usually wasn’t much of a wait.

When the food court era ended, the General Services Administration (GSA) looked for a tenant for this unwieldy and aging property.

That tenant was Donald Trump. The reality show star promised to transform the historic property into a five-star hotel.

Instead, he turned it into a garish palace for corrupt, insider dealings. A marble floor was put over the old food court, the railings and bannisters were gilded with gold leaf and crystal chandeliers hung from the rafters. The Trump International Hotel opened in September 2016.

Security guard in front of the Trump Hotel

For people who lived in DC, it became a joke, a place for wealthy rubes to be fleeced by the Trump crime family.

More seriously, the  Trump International Hotel became how corporations and foreign governments paid off the President, paying inflated room rates in exchange for access. It also became infamous for the many conspiracies hatched in the lobby by people like Rudy Giuliani.

In the early days of his administration (2017), if you were of the right complexion, it was not difficult to get inside and have a look around. The lobby was like the 1980s – marble floors, overstuffed couches, chairs with gold trim. It was still a massive atrium, so it was cold and the acoustics were terrible. You had to shout just to have a conversation.

making deals
they will let any (white) one in

The hotel soon became a center of protest against the Trump Administration. You might not to be able to get near the White House, but you could go right up to the Trump Hotel. Everyone came to protest, from people against Trump’s rump health care plan to women making out for LGBT rights.

The hotel originally had an outdoor cafe, but guests were jeered by demonstrators so that was eliminated. With a prime location on Pennsylvania Avenue, the hotel and its faux gold Trump sign were perfect to get a selfie of yourself gagging. By the end of his administration, the Trump International was ringed by fences and guards to keep it safe.

Today, DC got the Old Post Office back. Trump sold his lease to Hilton, which will turn the hotel into a Waldorf Astoria. A place with real class, not gold-trimmed banisters.

the Trump name is gone
the Trump name is gone

The first thing Hilton did last night was to remove the Trump name. I biked down early in the morning hoping to see it blasted off the Old Post Office. But they did that before dawn, perhaps to avoid the cheering crowds which would have showed up during the day.

I would’ve paid to pry his name off the Old Post Office. It’s a beautiful building that belongs to the public and should never have been the plaything of a tyrant.

His name no longer defiles Pennsylvania Avenue. The symbol of misrule is gone. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.








Four Favs from the Metropolitan Beer Trail

on the Metropolitan Branch Trail
Metropolitan Beer Trail

Seven of DC’s most popular breweries and bars have come together to form the Metropolitan Beer Trail.

Each location is walkable or bikeable from the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which stretches from Union Station to Brookland along the Red Line.

Starting on May 14, the Metropolitan Beer Trail kicks off with a digital passport and discounts. The first 300 who visit all seven breweries get a t-shirt.

I’ve been biking along the trail for years and watched it grow from being lined with abandoned warehouses to blooming with breweries.

Here are my four favorites along the MBT.

metrobar

Metrobar
outdoor seating and a Metro car at metrobar

A Metro-themed bar with a Metro car in it? How cool is that? Located just off the MBT, this outdoor beer garden is a great spot to grab a drink and a Metro selfie.

Metrobar opened during the pandemic. The Metro car was delivered in two pieces and assembled on site. The car is being fixed up so that you’ll be able to eat and drink inside of it.

They have a great selection of local beer, there’s a food truck out front (the soul food one is great) and I really like their Old Fashioned. Or as they call it, a Metro Fashioned.

Metrobar does a great job at connecting with the DC community. There’s always some sort of event going like a band, movie or photo exhibit. They even had a book signing for authors, where I signed copies of my book LIKES.

City-State Brewing

The Flavor of the District
Tiny beers at City-State

Watching trains while drinking a beer – that’s the dream, isn’t it?

Located less than a hundred yards from metrobar, City-State is up a set of stairs from the trail. On their elevated perch, enjoy a DC-themed beer (like their 8 Wards IPA) and watch MARC and Amtrak trains roll westward. You can smell the hops inside – it’s a real brewery.

City-State is also the most kid-friendly brewery on the trail, too, with games and toys for the little ones.

Dew Drop Inn

bike parking at Dew Drop Inn
bike parking at Dew Drop

DC used to be full of dive bars like Dew Drop, places with squeaky stairs and pleather-covered bar stools. This is about the only one left.

It’s the spot to make bad decisions at the end of the night as you drink bourbon and coke. BBQ is available.

Dew Drop is at the end of the trail part of the MBT. On 8th St, the trail turns to road for reasons known only to the planners at District Department of Transportation.

Red Bear

FurROARi
a low alcohol beer at Red Bear

Red Bear is the place to eat on the Metropolitan Beer Trail. Located across from the NoMa Metro Station, and next to REI, the beer is good but the cheese curds are delicious. They are a perfect way to soak up some of the booze.

Inside is unfathomably loud so sit outside.

The connection to the MBT is a little tricky. To get to the trail from Red Bear, go under the bridge and make a left up the ramp.

Tips

For those attempting the Metropolitan Beer Trail by bike, Metro, car or foot:

  • If biking, bring a lock. While back racks are available, some (like at City-State) are out of view from the brewery.
  • If you’re trying to do all seven bars and breweries at once, consider drinking  low-alcohol or sampler sizes. Non-alcoholic options are available too – metrobar has a good lemonade.
  • The MBT is very convenient for the Metro. The Rhode Island Avenue stop on the Red Line is right next to the trail.
  • Walkers/runners might consider starting at Dew Drop and working their way downhill to Red Bear.
  • If driving, there’s parking at metrobar; otherwise you’re on your own.
  • The MBT is an urban trail. There’s usually plenty of people around, so I’d call it safe, but be aware of your surroundings.

 








The City Paper Gives Up Print

Washington City Paper newspaper box
On April Fool’s Day 2022, the Washington City Paper announced that they would no longer publish a weekly print edition.

To me, the City Paper was urban life. When I came to Washington, this alternative free weekly was one of the things that defined the city, along with the Metro and the museums, none of which were available in my Florida homeland.

The City Paper of the 1990s had it all! In its black and white pages, you could find the latest Marion Barry scandals, record reviews, an events calendar and pages of classified ads for apartments, yard sales and adult services.

Plus, amazing long-form journalism by writers such as Eddie Dean, who profiled overlooked corners of the city, like taxi drivers in Anacostia. He wrote about the gritty, pre-gentrification city and the people who lived there. These were fascinating, novelistic portrayals of DC beyond the monuments and they had a huge influence on my own writing.

Inspired by the City Paper

In 2017, I won the City Paper Fiction Competition with my short story, Victory Party, which is about the election night 2016 in DC. I got to see my work in print, online and had a reading at Kramerbooks – the thrill of a lifetime, all thanks to the City Paper.

A couple years later, I won the competition again, with Apartment 101, which is about three decades of life in one apartment. You can see the City Paper influence in my short story, which has lots of local detail and is about a DC far from the monuments.

Just Another Web Site

Does DC really need another hyperlocal online news outlet? Washington is already awash in digital news, with local sites including Axios DC, Greater Greater Washington, Prince of Petworth and blogs even more obscure.

What made the City Paper unique and different was that it published in print. Paper – the ultimate app for reading. While our digital devices constantly serve up distraction, words on paper demand our attention. You can’t multitask while reading a book.

Also, print has an authority that digital cannot match. On the Internet, everyone is equal. You can make your crackpot blog look as authoritative as the New York Times. But not everyone can afford to maintain a printing press and a distribution network.

I’ve seen my short stories published online before. But seeing them in print in the City Paper was qualitatively different. They were actual physical objects in the world, compared to transient pixels.

I say all of this as a person who has spent their career working in digital media. I’ve managed web sites, published email newsletters and gone viral on social media yet none of it compares to the in-your-hands reality of a newspaper, book or magazine.

After forty years in print, the City Paper has given all that up. No longer will you be able to find them in a stack at Kramerbooks or pull one out of a box on your way to the Metro. No more getting your fingers dirty with ink while engrossed in a story at Zorba’s. No more thrill of seeing your words on a printed page.

Instead, the City Paper is going to be just another web site.

 








Signs of Life in Downtown DC

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Parts of downtown Washington, DC, are a time capsule, perfectly frozen in time from the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of these places is Sweet Leaf on 15th St. It’s your typical high-end salad place – DC loves its expensive salads.

Like much of the city, it closed in March, 2020, and never reopened. They just locked up and left. The signs announcing new salad combinations, the chairs and tables, the register – everything is still inside.

Large swathes of downtown DC look similar. The white collar workers that once poured out of the Metro are working from home. Still. Most of the coffee shops, sandwich places, cleaners and bars that supported them are gone.

So few people that the Starbucks have closed! DC used to have Starbucks across the street from Starbucks but even they can’t survive.

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The city has taken to plastering empty storefronts with murals. They’re quite good but do not disguise the fact that you can be the only person walking down L St on a Tuesday morning – a very unusual occurrence for a place that once used to be the busiest in the city.

Yet, it was worse last year. Walking around Farragut North then was an apocalyptic experience, with streets so dark and empty that it was worrisome. It seemed like the world had ended but no one had told me.

I work from home but cannot sit at home all day. I like to get coffee in the morning so grab a Capital Bikeshare bike and roll down the 15th St bike lane (passing the empty Sweet Leaf).

It’s good to see humanity. There’s a guy at 15th and K who yells hello at everyone. You can hear him from blocks away. He recognizes me. Thinks my name is David. “Good morning Daaavviidd!” he shouts as I wave to him from across K Street.

I like the Peet’s Coffee near the White House. It’s sunny, on a corner and has a view of Old Executive Office Building, a flamboyant and anachronistic construct of marble columns, flags and ironwork, all done in French Empire style.

Pre-pandemic, the line at Peet’s would stretch to the door. I haven’t had to wait in line there since 2019. I bring my laptop to work from home from a coffee shop. There are few customers – maybe a uniformed Secret Service agent with his bike parked out front, a TV correspondent getting a latte before going to a press briefing or a tourist wandering in after a White House selfie.

Lately, I’ve seen signs of life downtown. At Midtown Centre, where the Sweet Leaf time capsule is, Dauphine’s, a Cajun joint, opened last year – and is still open. Construction workers are busy building out a Japanese restaurant, too.

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And biking by Sweet Leaf this morning, I noticed something different. A sign.

NOW HIRING
ALL POSITIONS
PART TIME AND FULL TIME

A simple piece of paper. A sign of life after two years of emptiness. The time capsule reopening.

The days of having a coffee shop to myself are coming to an end. The days of being the only person walking down the block. The days of artwork covering empty windows.

I’ve been wrong before. I thought downtown would spring back to life last year. Maybe it will never come back. Maybe it will come back differently. But it’s definitely coming back.








We Have Not Forgotten January 6th

The Capitol is open again

January 6th has largely been forgotten.

It has disappeared in the mad crush of events of the past year. A new President, the ebbs and flows of coronavirus and the rise of inflation have all taken the place of the insurrection in the nation’s consciousness.

The work of investigators goes on, racking up indictments against hundreds of rioters. Congress is slowly and methodically investigating the organizers. And the media hasn’t forgotten.

But, for most Americans, it’s just another part of the past few years that they’re trying to forget.

Washington, DC, has not forgotten. For the citizens of the nation’s capital – like me – it’s a day seared in our memories.

I saw the rioters. They were all over the city that day, including in hotels in my neighborhood. On January 6th, I saw them bedecked in Trump gear and armed with bats, poles, clubs and pepper spray. Some were even outfitted in camouflage uniforms, complete with patches and IDs. They looked like National Guard to me. I think one part of January 6th which hasn’t been investigated was the attempt by some Trump supporters to impersonate the military.

On January 6th, I watched the mob march up to the Capitol and then march back, where they celebrated in their hotels. They were proud of what they had done. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever witnessed.

Even the next day, there was no remorse. On January 7th they were still running around DC waving Trump flags before eventually departing.

That Trump supporters were part of a riot wasn’t a surprise to anyone who lives here. During their earlier rallies, Trump supporters had brawled with people in the streets and vandalized black churches.

We knew something terrible was coming January 6th. A culmination of months of violence.

As a kid, I watched Schoolhouse Rock. I’m Just a Bill taught me how democracy worked.

Change in America, unlike other countries, occurred through the legislature. It was done by elected representatives who followed the Constitution.

But how could you believe that after January 6th?

We nearly lost democracy to an angry mob. Only the brave men and women of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department (DC’s police force) prevented Steve Bannon from installing Donald Trump as President for Life.

The country has moved on, more concerned with gas prices and covid. The facts of January 6th are uncomfortable to examine too closely.

But the people of DC have not forgotten.