Dear PoP – Songster and Boogying Dude, on 14th Street NW, Near Monroe Edition


“Hello Prince of Petworth!

Forgive me if you have already covered this guy and his “deal”. I work in the office across the street – for over a week now, there’s a guy who blares (I mean BLARES) music and sells “wares” on 14th street NW, across from the Tivoli Building. It’s not really a huge issue – except his music is extremely loud and not my particular taste in music ;). But, freedom of speech (music), I guess. He definitely likes to boogie and dance around – it’s just simply amusing. I am surprised though, that no one has complained about the noise level. He might make for an interesting interview subject.”

I’ve been looking for this guy ever since I recieved this email last week but I’m not sure I found him. I did however find a boogying dude (photographed in the white shirt with his arm outstretched). across outside the liquor store singing and dancing and spinning and asking for money. But I’m guessing that’s not who you were talking about. So I guess I’ll open up this Dear PoP to any readers familiar with the “boogying dude” in the original question.

But I’m also interesting to hear what you guys think about panhandlers. I rarely encounter them in Petworth, Columbia Heights or really any neighborhood except for downtown. I asked a cop I saw on a segway if the panhandler photographed above was a problem and he said he had not received any complaints. So have you guys noticed any panhandlers in your neighborhoods? Are they overly aggressive or generally polite?

47 Comment

  • I’m familiar with what the emailer is complaining about. There are a couple of guys who hang out on the corner of 14th and Monroe all day and into the night, selling items like incense, DVDs, etc, and they regularly blast music from a large boombox. At times, it’s got to be up at 75 or more decibels. Lately, it seems the volume has been turned up, and what wasn’t a problem has turned into an annoyance for sure.

  • There are ***frequently*** panhandlers at the top and bottom of the Petworth Metro and they are usually quite nasty if you ignore them – much nastier than the panhandlers downtown. I have seen both women and men, but mostly men who are seriously intimidating Metro riders in front of the mural at the bottom of the escalator and out of view of the Metro personnel. BTW – what exactly is the role of those Metro personnel at the stations? They are always rude and only seem to be hanging out chatting with friends and other Metro personnel and ignoring what is actually happening on the platforms (out of control kids, people pissing, eating, etc.) even though they have cameras and monitors inside those little booths. I have never seen any Metro personnel assist anyone without a serious attitude.

  • There are frequently panhandlers at the Petworth Metro – both at the entrance at the top and at the bottom of the escalators – out of view of the Metro personnel (not that they would ever do anything!). These panhandlers (both women and men) are quite nasty and often yell or get in your face.

  • A good way to defuse a panhandler is look them firmly in the eyes and say “sorry dont have any ca$h. ” Most are happy to even be acknowledged and won’t continue to harass..ignoring them like they are lepers and staring at the ground usually just adds to the crazy factor..just FYI

  • Yep, I’ve seen the guy in front of the drugstore and liquor store on 14th. Most recently on Saturday, around 2:30pm.The emailer is right. That music is LOUD. I haven’t seen him dance, though.

    And yes, there are a couple regulars around the Target and the CH metro. One in a wheelchair right in front of the Radio Shack. And there’s one white haired guy who stands outside 5 guys and asks for 50 cents. This seems to be a better tactic than “can you spare some change”. I was approached by a woman outside my office downtown who asked me for 50 cents. I figured she needed a little extra for bus fare, and gave it to her. Then I stood and watched as she (successfully) approached two other people. Neat little bit of psychology there, playing on our own assumptions.

  • C, I do something similar when someone asks me for a cigarette. I say “sorry, I bummed this one.” It’s true… sometimes. But you’re right that they’re satisfied just to get an answer.

  • I have to agree with Anon 10:48…the panhandlers at the Petworth metro are much worse than downtown. I have been cussed up and down, with F*** this and F*** that, accused of being guilty of pushing out the locals and then not helping out my “neighbors.” And I note, for C, that I generally do not avert my eyes and ignore, but rather just say “sorry, maybe next time” which nevertheless generates a tirade.

  • homeboy with the boom box is cool. thinking about buying an electric razor from him tomorrow.

  • There is a very rude panhandler that hangs out around the Columbia Heights metro. He once approached my friends and I enjoying a pizza at Pete’s asking for a slice. When we told him that we were hungry and did not have enough to share he called us selfish and walked away. He returned when we were almost finished with our meal with a large burger from Five Guys, took a huge bite and proceeded to call us selfish again with food falling out of his mouth. He was stood hovering over our table until we got up and walked away. Maybe if he hadn’t so awkwardly and rudely interrupted our nice outdoor dining experience we may have bought him his own slice. Looks like he has no problem finding food though.

    There is also a woman I have seen hanging out on the north side of Connecticut in Dupont who holds a sign that reads, “What the f***, it’s just a buck.” I applaud her for the honesty.

  • Mr. T – I wonder if that’s the same guy the emailer is talking about? I know the one you’re referring to, and he’s been there WAYYY longer than a week. And I’ve never seen him boogie!

  • There is a guy usually on the northeast corner of 14th and U who continuously asks for 9 cents so he could get a hamburger.

  • I do the “I don’t have cash” routine, which is usually true. Once tho, a guy who told me he just got out of jail and needed the money to get an ID or something responded, “Hey man, there’s an ATM right down the street, I’ll take you to it.”

    But if they do ask for food, I buy it for them. I don’t like to give out cash, but I’ve spent up to $10 before getting someone a meal.

  • The last time I gave $ to a panhandler it was because he was very aggressive and I had parked my bike close by so was concerned about vandalism. I gave 50 cents and he complained it wasn’t enough.

  • I know that guy. Last night, he was still out around 8pm when I was walking to the Giant. He is always there. I am always curious if people buy things from him.

  • in general I use the line “I’m sorry, I don’t have cash but I’d be happy to buy you some food if you’re hungry/I have a granola bar in my bag if you’d like it.” ONCE in DC someone took me up on it (and I got him the burger he requested). If I’m alone on the street or otherwise feel uncomfortable I go with just “no, sorry” or ignoring. It makes me feel like crap but what can you do? I try to donate time/goods/money to various orgs that help the homeless but that’s not very helpful in the moment someone’s asking.

    Overall, I’ve never had a problem with panhandlers. The one exception was summer 2007, leaving a Hillary Clinton rally near Gallery Place, broad daylight, lots of people around. A woman was asking for money very aggressively and when I said no she grabbed me, leaving nailmarks on my shoulder. I said “let go of me!” very firmly and fairly loudly, and as people started to turn around I pulled away. But she was definitely the exception not the rule.

  • The last few times I told them that I don’t talk to strangers on the street which got me confused looks.

  • What I’ve always found to be interesting/odd are the panhandlers who do unsolicited “jobs” and then ask for compensation. There used to be a guy who would open the door to Ben’s and then ask for a tip. Saw another guy picking up old papers and other litter on a Metro and then looking around and asking passengers for his wages.

  • The guy selling CDs and stuff across from the Tivoli is nice enough. I just walk by there everyday instead of living or working right there, but I can’t say that I mind the music. Something to listen to besides the traffic. And I have never found the CH metro panhandlers particularly aggressive. “Sorry, no” with eye contact usually does the trick. I’m more likely to be bothered by catcalls from the dudes hanging outside the fire station.

    Now, I work near Union Station. Some of those panhandlers are a little scary. And they’re all a little crazy.

  • Mmm…I hate to disagree with folks here but talking to the panhandlers in CH just gives them more of an opportunity to harass me/pick up on me/get in my face. I use to do the polite thing and treat them like people and acknowledge their presence but I’ve been burned one too many times. To avoid confrontation, I’d just rather ignore the pandamonium. I haven’t had any issues at the GA metro stop. Nothing exciting just yet…

    This guy though. This is a tradesman I’d like to meet.

  • Uptown ain’t got nothin’ on downtown panhandlers. I work near Metro Center, near the large homeless shelters near MLK library and at the Franklin School, and have been at this location for over a decade. By 6am the guys and gals are out working the hustle on tourists and worker-folk, and they do it really well. Some are aggressive, some are pathetic, some use props, etc. Some are of course totally schizophrenic, but they don’t generally ask for money, instead they wail in fright as litter blows by. Remember: Marion Barry, a member of our city leadership, recently petitioned to keep the Franklin School a shelter as it offered the best panhandling venue around. Imagine the impact on our city when that policy discussion is taken seriously. He enslaves a new generation, and I say that fully cognizant of all context.

    Oh, there’s also frequent scams down in this area, I was recently taken by a “$20 for two $10’s” scam that was quick and brilliant (and I was obviously extremely dumb for several minutes. Or perhaps forever).

  • Does anyone else who lives a bit off the beaten path – not by retail/metro centers – run into them? I have catalogue man who spreads out an impressive selection of beat up catalogues all around him, and asks for money. He’s always very nice and sometimes just says good morning and doesn’t ask for money. Recently, a different guy has been hanging out at the corner of Jefferson and 8th, I’ve seen him twice in the last week. I always look him in the eye and say I’m sorry, I don’t carry cash, and keep on walking.

  • I haven’t seen $20 for two $10s in twenty years.

    I agree that Mayor Barry is interested in enslaving people. The people I know who he got jobs are still beholden to him as a “benefactor” who parcels things out. He and Blagojevich are one and the same.

    If there’s one thing that Dischord taught me, it was that people had to reject that kind of ominous, controlling authority and “do it yourself.”

  • There are some very agressive panhandlers that hang outside Pete’s Apizza. Very different from the ones near Union Station that have made panhandling a career (some of them I’ve been seeing for almost 10 years now). They ask politely and if they get turned down will usually say God bless or something like that. But the guy outside Pete’s was trying to grab my arm as I walked by, really creepy.

  • Emma, no I don’t get any campers, but I do get rovers coming by and asking for money if I am outside.

    Catalogue man sounds cool, I always try and support the ones who are doing something, anything, other than shaking a cup or just asking.

  • I saw one of the panhandlers at CH metro buying crack the other day (he kept yelling to the dealer – “You’ve got my money, now give me the stuff, c’mon, i need the stuff.”, much to the dealer’s chagrin. I remembered him bc I’d felt guilty for not having given him change earlier that week despite his having peed his pants. But seeing him buying drugs made me feel a little less guilty. He needs more help than my 25 cents can provide.

    Once when I was a starving student, I was accosted by a panhandler in the NYC subway – I didn’t have any money, but I offered him my nice, warm blueberry muffin (which I could ill-afford anyway), and I was horrified to see him get off at the next stop and toss the brown bag into the garbage can without even looking to see what was inside.

  • i like the guy. i wonder if his sales have dropped-off now that he cant really pimp “Obama-wares” any more. Its tough times for the obama-memorabilia market i bet. also, i think the RIP Shawn Taylor market has basically dried up.

    rough times

  • It was the white-haired white guy.

  • In the Adams Morgan area there’s a guy that I see sometimes, very nice and unobtrusive. He’s got the crazy, but is not mean. Sometimes I see him passed out on the street and worry he’ll get hurt or his shoes will get stolen. I never have cash, but if I did I would give it to this guy, even if he is just gonna use it on booze. Something about the guy makes me like him

    Now that the weather is turning nice the annoying street music people will be outside the metro. Blue grass band is the only one that is any good. They used to play on Thursdays. Wed. I would try to get cash to give them, but then you gotta break the 20 etc.

    I feel for panhandlers, street musicians, etc. So few people carry cash anymore.

  • Speaking of scams,

    I bet you $20 I can tell you where you got your shoes!

  • I was once aggressively followed in Chinatown for an entire block by a man who obviously had mental problems — first he asked for money, then kept yelling something about being a veteran over and over as he followed us. Fortunately I was in the company of two large-ish guys (we walked as quickly as possible to the Metro so as to try to get away from the guy), otherwise I would have been really freaked out by the experience. I haven’t had any major problems with panhandling in Columbia Heights, MtP, or U St.

  • I just remembered my favorite panhandler story from when I used to catch the D6 in Dupont — one guy had a very distinctive voice and he would often pass by asking for change in the evening. One night he sat down next to me at the bus stop (he seemed nice enough, I don’t remember being concerned by this fact) and very politely asked “Excuse, could I see your shoe?” As if I were going to take it off and give it to him! And then when I demured and said that I would rather not, he said “Don’t worry, I’ll give it back.” too funny

  • Oh, and my favorite panhandler response is when they ask “spare change?” Then I get to say “No thanks!”. Ha!

  • I truly believe giving cash to panhandlers reinforces the cycle of poverty. By continually providing cash to panhgandlers, they have no incentive to seek a better life for themselves. There are DC programs – which you may or may not believe are worthwhile – but they are available. If you knew you could put the squeeze on residents and tourists to get your next fix, wouldn’t you do this as well? By eliminating this source of “income”, folks will then turn to other sources for assistance. Some may say they will turn more violent, but aren’t a lot of them already violent? I have no problem giving them food, but many folks have noted that panhandlers often throw the food away. By giving them money, you are only continuing their “enslavement” and the endless cycle of their existence in poverty.

  • NateG – too funny on the Obama wares!

    I live at 14th and Girard, and one time I was walking home from the gym (WSC) and between Columbia and Harvard, where the sidwalk really widens there’s a bus stop with a bunch of people standing around. I walk by them and this crazy guy screams at me – “F**k a Ni##er in the A$$!” Needless to say, everyone at the bus stop stares in shock – at me mind you, not at him. I didn’t know if I was going to get beat down by a bunch of old ladies with their handbags, or if this crazy nutjob in dirty clothes and coke bottle glasses was going to come after me. Lucky for me I was coming home from the gym and had earphones in. I acted like I didn’t hear him, but i know everybody knew I did. By far one of my wierdest moments in 18 months in the hood.

    BTW – there are definitely pan handlers on my block outside Dunkin Doughnuts, but not nearly as bad as it once was with the park across the street and the Bodega on the Corner of 14 and Fairmont. My wife kept running into teenage girls asking to use her cell phone. Anybody know if that’s some type of scam?

  • Don’t give these people ANYTHING. If you are employed you give EVERY week in the form of taxes that, at some level, provide shelters and meals for the homeless/poor. Isn’t 30% of your pay enough to shell out for the Gov’t and its programs!

    If they get aggressive, then you get aggressive and tell them to piss off. I frequently dismiss them with a wave of the hand, and say “Not a chance”.

  • Bryan, the cell phone thing might be harmless, or they might simply run off it with. Not a scam really, just “Robbery / Snatch”. I have loaned out my phone a couple times when fellow pedestrians ask to use it, but admit I wouldn’t to teenagers in a park, I’ve seen how speedy they can be!

    On a side note, in Paris years ago I did see the classic “will you take our picture” thing where the person being asked did run off with the camera. Very amusing. Also, many folks there insisted on taking the couples picture and mailing it to them.

  • @12:48, “incentive” is not what these people lack. If you truly believe that living on the street and begging to get what you need (be it food or booze or crack) is the cushy life, I suggest you give it a try.

    Sorry to take a turn for the serious, but idiocy like this fool posted can’t be allowed to go unchallenged.

  • WDC – no one said they lived the cushy life, no one. I agree with both Anon at 12:48 and 12:59pm. Do not give these people anything or they will continue to beg and live on the street and harass tax-paying citizens.

  • WDC and Anon, I think alcohol and drugs are a key part of the incentive package. Speaking from experience, with the above two inputs, yours standards in all other things drop quite low. Ie, you don’t want a cushy life, you just want those things. Sure you are miserable, but you’re an addict, and thus you chase the miserable. In most cases, I’d say alcohol is the worse culprit locally.

  • I used to use the “I don’t have any cash” line- which is always true, but one time a lady near U street came back with a “Why do all you white people always say that?!?”

    I thought it was funny for three reasons: Mostly because she was white; also because I was somewhat let down that my “great idea for a panhandler response” was not at all great, nor was it my idea as apparently “all the white people” are using it; and afterall, it is kind of a smug, WASPy thing to say that makes us feel like we’re nicer by giving a truthful answer, but also not giving them a penny.

  • I suggest countering these requests with a sudden twitch of the neck and a shout of FERRET! FERRET!

    Works every time.

  • The guys around the Metro don’t bother me. I never extend the interaction past “no, sorry” and move on. They ask, I answer — in most cases no harm, no foul. What really gets me in CH are the times I’ve been panhandled at my home. I used to live on Newton Street, where there’s a lot of foot traffic to the St. Stephen’s soup kitchen on Saturdays, and I’ve had guys come up to me while I’m out in the front yard, or even knock on the door, and aggressively ask for cash (maybe once someone asked for food because he’d missed the soup kitchen hours, which he got). I hate the sense of being forced either to be a complete d*ck or to be held hostage in my own house until the guy decides it’s not worth his time.

  • Anyone run into the guy who used to be in Chinatown that would walk around with flowers (usually looking like they’d been picked from a neighborhood flowerbox) and try and give them to women. If they accepted, he then tried to shame them into giving him money. Thought he was mostly harmless til he tried it on a female friend of mine who I was with, I said “No thanks, I know your game” and then he followed us for a block cursing and asking me why I wouldn’t give him money. Thought I saw him in Columbia Heights awhile ago, maybe he’s moving into new territory.

  • Yes, of course, I’ve been so blind. If we all just stop giving money to addicts and the mentally ill, they will suddenly straighten up and go find jobs. After all, they’ll have *incentive* to do so! If we’re lucky, they might even become Republicans.

    If you must be cynical, consider the buck you put into some panhandler’s cup like a protection racket: this way, he won’t need to break into your house or car.

    But if you have a speck of compassion, perhaps a “there but for the grace of god go I” attitude is more appropriate.

    I’m not saying I hand out dollar bills like candy. Or that I hand out candy, for that matter. Just that I have a little sense of exactly what the obstacles are for these unfortunate folk. In some cases, ALL YOU CAN DO is shake your head sadly and make it a little easier for that person to get through one more day.

  • what is the deal with the guy at the 7-11 on hawaii? he is ALWAYS there…it really pisses me off to have to deal with him going in and coming out every time i want a damn taquito or 3.

  • I think every 7-11 has to have a panhandler at the door. It’s part of the franchise agreement.

  • For everyone who’s wondering, panhandling is perfectly legal, however, these activities are prohibited:

    1) Touching you while soliciting alms.
    2) Continuing to solicit alms after a negative response.
    3) Blocking you way/route in a way requiring you to evade them
    4) Solicit alms at a train, bus or subway stop
    5) Within 10 feet of an ATM machine
    6) From any occupant or operator of a motor vehicle (i.e. beg from the median)
    7) Cleaning car windows for change
    8) Reserving a parking space/directing someone to a parking space
    9) In exchange for protecting/watching/cleaning/etc. a motor vehicle or bike in a public street
    10) On private property without permission
    11) Asking, begging, or soliciting in an aggressive manner

    If you can articulate one of these prohibited actions to a police officer, and you seem convincing enough to generate probable cause, a police officer can arrest a panhandler without a warrant. At the very least it’ll give the cop to cause to persuade a guy to move on.

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