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Maybe it’s just me, but when folks call up after their name appears in the paper, it’s usually not to say they like what’s been written. But the strangest post-story call I ever received came this summer from local doggie activist John Bucciarelli, who I had interviewed for a column about the attempted takeover of a kids’ baseball field at Harrison Rec Center by dog owners in the U Street corridor.
In the lede of that story, I had written that I’d found a lot of poop over by the first-base dugout. Bucciarelli had at the time been lobbying D.C. officials to create dog parks near his U Street digs. He rang me up around midnight one night a few weeks after the story came out saying he just wanted to let me know that I had been duped by the parents of the kids who play baseball at the park. How’s that, I asked? Any poop I saw during my visit to the ballyard, he said, wasn’t put there by dogs. No, the poop in my lede had been placed there by the baseball parents, he said, just for me to find it. These people set me up because they knew I would be coming to the field, he said. I had taken their bait.
“You’re saying these parents are going around planting poop?” I asked, pointing out through chuckles that the baseball parents hadn’t known when I would be visiting Harrison Rec.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying!” said Bucciarelli, who ran his dogs at the park despite the signs posted by D.C. Parks and Rec saying that such activity was banned.
Bucciarelli then said I had missed the real story about what was going on at Harrison Rec, which he saw as the deviousness of the anti-dog crowd, and then claimed I had censored a pro-dog-park letter to the editor that he’d written to City Paper. If I had “any integrity as a reporter,” he said, I would show up at Harrison Rec field “right now” and he’d walk me around to show how poop-free the park is when the doo-doo-planting baseball parents aren’t around.
I told Bucciarelli that maybe Bob Woodward would travel downtown after midnight to meet an antagonist to search for poop on an unlit ballfield—-but I wouldn’t. Before hanging up, I told him that I had never received his pro-dog-park letter, that even if City Paper was part of the anti-dog movement the city would still create a dog park near his home in the near future, and that, well, he sounded out of his mind.
But one afternoon earlier this week, I was walking down 14th Street with a friend and saw Harrison Rec for the first time since I’d written the story. Darn if Bucciarelli’s “integrity” swipe wasn’t still ringing in my ears.
I headed straight for the first-base dugout.
And there it was. Poop! Mounds of it! Right where I’d found mounds of poop some months back! Even more than before! There were brown mounds of fresh poop! And whitening, crusty mounds of old poop! And mounds of poop of indeterminate age.
I hadn’t been this happy to see poop since a bout with colitis in college.
As I walked off the field, I saw that a sign saying dogs were prohibited from the ballfield was still there, too. Far as I could tell, however, there were no baseball parents around.