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The city’s Guardian Angels fancy themselves low-to-the-ground citizen crimefighters, sniffing out wrongdoing on their street beats. But their increasing activism in the District over the past year suggests they rely primarily on the Washington Post when deploying their foot soldiers. A series of well-publicized robberies on the Red Line prompted the Angels, who had abandoned the District in the early ’90s, to patrol Metro trains last winter. In February, a string of headline-making violent crimes brought the group to Adams Morgan. Now, in the wake of the recent Starbucks murders, the paramilitary patrollers have infiltrated Georgetown. “I don’t know what role they play, and for the life of me I don’t know who invited them,” says Bill Cochran, chair of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. The Angels’ D.C. director, John Ayala (who walks the streets under the nom de guerre Unique King), says several residents asked the group to come to Georgetown, where they aim to provide a “visual deterrent” to crime.
When Helene Bloom, owner of Soho Tea and Coffee at 22nd and P Streets NW, agreed to host a gig for Sony Music last month, she figured the promoters were looking to capitalize on her popular cafe’s hipster atmosphere. But Bloom’s interior decor was apparently too risqué for music industry types. According to Bloom, Sony canceled the July 19 appearance of Shawn Smith, lead singer of the Seattle-based band Brad, after a company rep objected to a series of black-and-white photographs on the coffee house’s walls. “He said, ‘We find the artwork offensive and we don’t want to subject our artist to it,’” Bloom says. She refused to censor the photos, which she describes as images of “muscle men,” including “a gentleman in a pond” and a guy on Rollerblades. Some are nude, she concedes, “but their genitals are not showing.” Sony’s local progressive music marketing manager, who refused to give his name, split hairs when asked to comment on the spat. “The show was not canceled,” said the Sony official. “There was a change of venue only.” So why the change? “It was for professional reasons,” he said. Sony apparently had no “professional” misgivings about nearby Food for Thought, where it ended up booking the Smith show. The walls there are decorated with little masks a local artist makes out of junk mail, along with a painting of four nude women, which daytime bartender Gordon Hartman describes as “extremely nonerotic.”
Parking tickets have powerful effects on people, rendering some violently angry, others despondent, and still others creatively inspired. Signs taped to lightposts around Mount Pleasant read like soothing verse: “Dear Neighbor/Our cars were booted/Towed away/No warning./And tickets on record downtown/That we never received./Does any of this sound familiar/To your situation?/We’d like to compare notes/If you are willing.” Adams Morgan resident Jeff Barnes says he composed the poetic call to arms after having his car towed for $800 worth of tickets he claims he never saw, all written by the same officer. “I would just love not to have this in my life, and would be willing to write many boring songs about flowers if it could be removed,” he says. Since posting the ode, Barnes and neighbor Allison Copelandwhose car is booted for $500 worth of allegedly unreceived ticketshave heard from several others and are hoping to meet with city officials sometime soon.