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“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves." -- Marlene Dietrich

The Dark Side of Takoma Park: A Photo Essay

I lived in DC for 7 ½ years before moving to the People’s Republic of Takoma Park. I now live on a nice street, in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by nice people who drive nice Hondas. When I walk around, people say “good morning”. When the mailman drops off his deliveries, he smiles and waves. There are no bars in town and every Sunday there is a nice Farmer’s Market.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I'm used to sirens wailing through Adams Morgan at 3am; muggings on 18th Street, and fires ripping through my building. It can be tough to get acquainted with a new city, especially when it doubles as a modern-day Pleasantville. So, in the spirit of adventure and thrill-seeking, I decided shortly after moving to TKPK to find the city's rougher side, to cast light on its seedy underbelly. There HAD to be more to this nuclear-free town, I thought, than uber-hippies treating their adorable children to ice cream and drivers actually stopping at a crosswalk for old ladies. Here is what I found:

This is where I wait every morning for the 12 or 13 bus to take me to the Metro. It can be pretty harrowing experience, much like riding the 42 bus up Connecticut Ave. at 5pm on a weekday. Last week, for instance, the bus driver yelled at me for running in front of her bus as she started to pull away. I told her that when I used to take the 42 bus, if I didn’t practically hurl muself in front of it the conductor would drive off because I wasn’t trying hard enough to catch it. She started to laugh but I think she was just concocting better ways to run me over in the future.

This is an old movie house that has been converted into a secret cult headquarters for Latinos. Every Sunday, it is filled with mind-altered, brain-washed cult members who believe in the crazy notion that their religion is the only way to salvation. At least they're not Jews for Jesus.

This lady was crazy. On the day I took this, she was wearing a top coat, wool cap, and long pants on an 85-degree day. She tried to glare at me menacingly but she had no idea how many crazy DC homeless people I’ve tangled with. I once bought a homeless dude a sandwich at 7-11 only to have him throw it at me. For some strange reason, he didn’t like pastrami from 7-11.

Drinking can be a problem in TKPK. This guy was sleeping one off by propping himself against the fence post. He was more considerate than your average DC wino, though, since he made a point of pissing on himself rather than the sidewalk. In DC, drunks piss on you.

People love their pupusas in Takoma Park. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why this vendor is so popular. Her service is as bad as Amsterdam Falafel's in Adams Morgan, her location can't be found by Google Earth, and she has the customer service skills of a CVS employee. She is pure evil, but her pupusas are amazing.

There is a major shopping cart population epidemic in this town. They are either abandoned or stolen. It is not uncommon to see them being used as baby strollers miles from the supermarket.

Playgrounds are pretty popular here. This one, however, is used to torture tiny children who can't reach the swing on the right.

This set of evil rings is also used to torture children. I haven't figured out how, though.

I’m pretty sure that a more thorough search through Takoma Park’s hidden creeks, like this one, will yield dead bodies. Maybe not as many as in Rock Creek Park, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts it has its fair share.

I took a great risk taking this shot on auto-timer. Luckily, I didn't get hassled by The Man. I tried taking a photo of myself in Mt. Pleasant once and almost got shot by Metro police. Well, not me, but someone I know. Well, not someone I know, but a stranger. Who I read about. In the newspaper. In New York. But still...

So, obviously, I survived my dangerous foray into Takoma Park's dark side. If you ever want to visit, do so at your own risk. Like any dangerous town, you just have to know which places to avoid and you'll be just fine.

But careful catching the bus.

Thanks to Express for another mention in today's online edition.
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