Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 05/25/11

By Tom Sherwood
|  Tuesday, May 24, 2011  |  Updated 10:13 PM EDT
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Sherwood's Notebook: Past, Present and Future

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First, here’s a little of the past.

“You are an inspiration for all of us,” said at-large D.C. Council member David Catania. “Tolerance and respect … your spirit affects all of us.”

“We all stand on the foundation you built,” said Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh.

Catania and Cheh were among a few dozen people who turned out on Saturday to say happy birthday -- and thanks -- to 86-year-old Frank Kameny, a pioneering activist for the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

Kameny was pushy, he was insistent and he was virtually alone when he began demonstrating for equal rights in the 1950s -- yes, the ’50s.

“The one thing I want to be remembered for,” he said in his still-strong voice, is the coining in 1968 of the phrase “gay is good.” Because back then, he said, the discrimination, the fear and the shame were “pretty dreadful.”

Kameny talked when no one was listening, and he can still talk up a storm today.

“I’ll have you out of here by dawn,” he joked, using one of his signature lines.

You can do an Internet search on Kameny’s pioneering history, but you can also listen to Jeff Marootian, a city transportation official nearly one-third his age.

“I’ve followed Frank’s life since I was in high school,” Marootian said during the gathering at Teak Wood restaurant on 14th Street NW. A graduate of George Washington University and a veteran of gay activism himself, Marootian said that he was “honored to be so close to those who paved the way for me.”

One little taste of how much things have changed: On Sunday as the Notebook rode our bike on the National Mall, we came across the Stonewall Kickball League. We’ve never understood the fun of kicking -- or catching -- that oversized rubber ball, but Stonewall is named for the gay bar in New York City where the patrons rioted against police harassment.

Far indeed.

• Here and now.

Here’s a little of the present.

Mayor Vincent Gray is spending the first part of the week in Las Vegas. He’s at the big shopping convention that became a staple for city officials beginning with then-Mayor Anthony Williams.

“Having a productive series of meetings with major retailers,” Gray wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon. “You’ll be excited about some of the companies considering DC locations!”

Washington Post reporter Jonathan O’Connell tweeted that Gray had a minimum of 25 meetings set up for the three days. O’Connell also tweeted that the city’s exhibit on the vast convention floor was getting a lot of positive attention.

Having a vigorous presence at the annual convention, one of the most important retail shopping gatherings in the world, has helped put the District on the map with major retailers. And so far, there haven’t been any scandal stories about lavish expense accounts or misconduct in Las Vegas. That’s a pretty good record in itself for city officials.

• The future is now.

The D.C. Council is about to approve redistricting for the city’s eight election wards. The ward boundary changes will take effect for the 2012 elections.

Council members Jack Evans, Michael A. Brown and Phil Mendelson have been working on a preliminary plan. It’s not a major makeover, but part of Ward 6 on Capitol Hill is expected to be ceded to Ward 7 to make the populations of each ward roughly equal.

The three council members are scheduled to hold a markup session on the proposed plan Thursday at 1 p.m. in Room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building. David Meadows, Brown’s spokesperson, said the proposal should be up by midweek on the council website, dccouncil.us.

At one point, there had been talk that near Southwest (where the Notebook lives) might become part of Ward 8 even though there’s no direct connection across the Anacostia River.

When it looked like it might happen, we told Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry that we would definitely run against him in the next election.

“I can’t wait,” Barry said. “I can’t wait.” And then we both laughed out loud at that idea (which is not going to happen).

• Heard and observed.

While bike riding on the National Mall at Seventh Street and Madison Drive NW, we passed an ice cream truck playing Christmas music -- religious tunes like “O Come Let Us Adore Him” as well as a ditty like “Frosty the Snowman.” It’s almost June!

• Bike to work?

Almost 11,000 people officially signed up for Bike to Work Day last Friday. But the big news was Mayor Gray’s ringing endorsement of bike lanes and biking at the 8:30 a.m. rally on Freedom Plaza. One enthusiastic bike rider said Gray sounded like Mayor Adrian Fenty. That’s high praise coming from a bike person.

• A final stop.

Ten-year Metro spokesperson Lisa Farbstein is headed to a new job. She’ll be joining the Transportation Security Administration, focusing on the airports and railway security in New York and New Jersey.

The Notebook wants to take a moment to say best wishes to Farbstein, who often tried to cut through the clutter of government bureaucracy to respond to reporters. She’ll remain based in the Washington area, but it sounds like she’ll be on the trains and planes a lot to do her job.

Farbstein is a former reporter for the Frederick News-Post, worked for Hood College in Frederick before it went co-ed, and also worked for the Arlington school system.

She joined Metro in the summer of 2001, before all the worry about security.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting place to work,” she told us on Monday. “I have a great deal of faith in this Metro system.”

Her last day will be June 3.

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