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In the center of it all

August 24, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ
(Page 3 of 3)

On a Tuesday, The Rhubarb House closes at 3 p.m. Bikle's Ski Shop closes at 6 p.m. A handful of other shops and offices on the edge of Public Square - Jane Anderson Brides/Michael's Formalwear, Hoffman Clothiers, Washington County's Visitors Welcome Center, R. Bruce Carson - close somewhere in between.

"Yeah, we're it," West says.

Rococco and Schmankerl Stube, each about a block away from the square and open for dinner, are the exceptions Sager mentioned earlier.

Life here has toned down a notch by now, but the Alexander House neighborhood watch group is keeping an eye out just the same.

"She's the one you want to talk to," says Weaver, back in his same chair.

"She" is Gloria Crawford, another resident.

"Every morning and every night, we're out here," Crawford says.

One of their biggest beefs is the bicyclists and skateboarders who either hit residents with their bikes and boards, or come close.

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"We've been fighting it since last year," Crawford says.

Now, the city doesn't let anyone ride skateboards or bicycles on the sidewalks, she says.

(Sure enough, the next day, a police officer alerts a girl of this. The surprised girl dismounts her bicycle near Rocky's and walks it across Potomac Street.)

Alexander House was the scene of a some excitement just before 5 p.m., when a firetruck and ambulance raced to a call that a man in a parked truck was ill. But after sitting for a few minutes, the man got out of the truck and was helped away.

The only other quibble in the evenings - and it's a minor one, Crawford says - is "it gets a little loud. They rev their motors."

She didn't say it, but they also blare their radios, and the sound carries without noise from other cars and people to muffle it.

Midnight


Perhaps, this "Day in the Life" chronicle could have ended hours ago without missing a thing. Except for the periodic stereo-cranked, windows-down vehicle, Public Square is virtually deserted.

But it's bright. Light emanates from almost everywhere: street lights, traffic lights, headlights, office building, apartments over shops, crosswalk signs, R. Bruce Carson Jewelers.

The air is still warm. The miniature ground-level American flags and the ones high above are nearly still.

Two cars stop on Potomac Street. A few people get out, scream, run around a little, get back in their cars when the light changes and drive off on Washington Street.

A girl gives practically the same performance a few minutes later.

Cars of young people pass through the square in caravans of two. People stroll along alone.

The Video Store, with its adult entertainment, closed around midnight. A man and a woman leave the store at 12:20 a.m., lock the door and chat with two women who approach them on the sidewalk. The man lifts his shirt and exposes his chest. They laugh.

"Dead" isn't exactly right for the square, though, because there's a bit of nightlife to the north. H20, a club on North Potomac Street, is winding down, but it's open.

It's karaoke night, and the DJ tonight was supposedly armed with more than 8,000 songs. Chicken wings are 25 cents, and there are beer specials, too. There's no cover charge. A neon light is on. A rotating light flashes in the window.

An H2O employee explains the next day that the club advertises its night-time hours as 6 p.m. to midnight, but sometimes stays open later. On Tuesday (actually Wednesday), the door shut at 2 a.m.

But if there is any noise going on at 12:45 a.m., you can't hear it from the sidewalk.

It sounds like the rest of the square - a mix of crickets, humming air conditioners and tires rolling over pavement, plus a group of five people talking loudly at the Perini bus stop.

Morning - the morning crowd, anyway - is just hours away.

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