[Another great guest blog about another uber friendly security guard! Thanks to my co-workers for helping out with this site. The day’s fast approaching when we’ll have to vacate. You know what that means, right? PARTY! If you’d like to help with planning it, let me know.]

Photo by Carrie Holbo

Photo by Carrie Holbo

All Along the Clocktower by Mindy Richman Garfinkel

It’s raining or snowing, and the commute’s been a bitch. A cold, harsh wind is whipping around the buildings between Metro Center and Pennsylvania Avenue, adding to my general misery. I slog it up the steps to Opootus and as I wrench open that heavy door, the day gets about 100 watts brighter. Well, hello there! intones the smooth baritone voice, accompanied by a radiant smile. It’s that friendly security guard, Nick Liggins. He’s just reset the equilibrium that had gotten slightly off-kilter since I left home. Now I’m ready for work.

Nick’s quite a guy, a whole package of surprises when you get right down to it. I discovered it when he mentioned that he didn’t understand some of the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody? I had some trouble with them, too, I offered, my interest piqued. He sang:

I’ve seen a little silhouetto of a man
Gotta musch, gotta musch, gotta do the Fandango

And that’s how I came to know that Nick likes Queen. (A quick lyrics search determined that it’s Scaramouche, Scaramouche, by the way. Wikipedia says he’s a roguish clown character of the Italian commedia dell’arte who wears a black mask and, sometimes, glasses. Maybe you already knew that.) Continue reading

Photo by Carrie Holbo

Photo by Carrie Holbo

[Another great piece by roving reporter Pepper Smith on an Opootus icon: the beloved security guard Bernard Osei. And I do mean beloved. It’s his uber-friendly demeanor for sure, but also that he pays attention and makes you feel special. When I got new glasses, he was the first to notice (and give me the thumbs up). When a colleague was out sick, he asked how she was feeling. I think my favorite thing about him, though, is his robust laugh, which I try to elicit any chance I get. I’ll tell him I have a meeting, say, and ask if I have anything in my teeth. He’ll pause for a quick moment, a little shocked out of his polite ways, wondering if he heard me right. Then he’ll laugh (but he’ll answer me, too). To you, Bernard. Thank you for being so nice to us all these last many years. We’ll miss you.]

Noble by Pepper Smith

When my wife and I had a baby last year, lots of folks I work with in Opootus said congrats, and a few even chipped in for gifts like a onesie with a funny quip on it. One of the nicest gifts we received came from a security guard who gave me a beautiful card with two twenty-dollar bills in it. That guard has extended many similar kindnesses to many people around Opootus. His name is Bernard Osei. In the Akan language of Ashanti, “Osei” means noble. The name fits.

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Poor Opootus. Poor Opootus’s peeps. I spoke to Doler Shah today and got a quick lowdown on what’s going on with him while most of us remain shut out of our offices.

He’s open. His tower isn’t, of course. But you can get to his lower floors. Doler and several others (including the Bagel Lady) have been going in every day — serving the few disgruntled tourists and whatnot who wander about the quiet interior — but they’re all losing money and closing each day by 3:30 pm. Some places have already closed, like the yogurt/salad place.

“Sure I’m sad,” said Opootus. “I’m lonely. I have abandonment issues I need to deal with. But at least I don’t have hundreds of squawking peacocks running around inside me, giving me agita. If I were the US Capitol? I might be making a few calls to Donald Trump myself.”

[Another story from one of our ace guest bloggers to keep us rooting for poor, lonely old Opootus and all his peeps during this government shutdown.]

I Brake For Manicures by Guiomar Barbi Ochoa

sign2These past few weeks have been very tough for me as I have come to the realization that a serious addiction of mine is coming to an end. Most people would be happy about kicking a habit but the thought of my weekly “fixes” vanishing is just too much for me to handle. I admit it… I’m a mani/pedi addict… and not just of ANY mani/pedis but Connie’s mani/pedis.

Ok, so her name isn’t really Connie but her shop is called Connie’s Nails so for the past five years, I’ve just always called her Connie. Her real name is Sung Im Kim. She took over Connie’s Nails from a church friend in 2008 and decided, in the interest of not confusing customers, to adopt Connie as her Western name.

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Photo by Victoria Hutter

Photo by Victoria Hutter

[Not much time left in Opootus to stop and smell his hundred-year-old ornaments and sneeze from the dust. I overheard Trump in one of his walkabouts say to his entourage as he pointed to the latticework above the elevators, “I hate this! Paint it gold!” Thankfully some among us are paying attention to his fine details before many of them go away for good.]

Chutes and Boxes by Victoria Hutter

Opootus has many fine architectural features that I have had the privilege of walking by for the past thirteen and a half years on the way to my office. The seven layers of multi-colored marble wainscoting on the main level and the glorious iron grill work on the elevator shaft are so evocative of the Art Deco era, a time period for which I’ve always felt a close affinity. Perhaps that’s why I noticed the Cutler mailboxes and chutes. Continue reading

[Big to-do in Opootus today and I was stuck in an all-day meeting. Thankfully, we had an ace reporter on the scene.]

Photo by Carrie Holbo

Photo by Carrie Holbo

Trumped Out Of My Own Building by Guiomar Barbi Ochoa

“Finally, an opportunity to wear those cute Ivanka Trump pumps that have been sitting in my closet!” I thought to myself as I got dressed this morning. A sunny, breezy morning in the Nation’s Capital seemed ideal for an outdoor press conference about the new Trump Hotel. As I strolled from Metro Center, I found it odd that nobody was sitting outside Opootus’s front entrance. After all, a week ago we had received an email announcing that a public press conference would be held on the main steps at 9:30 AM on September 10th. Excited to be the NEA’s designated reporter for Opootus, I faithfully found myself standing in front of our office building….. yet nobody stood with me. I could spot limos and even a beautifully preggo Ivanka, but where were the cameras and the press!? Continue reading

[Opootus’s first guest blog post! Very exciting. Brought to you by the letter O (in honor of the bagel shape), and the number 526 (the approximate number of times I’ve been a patron of The Bagel Lady before I thought to go easy on the gluten).]

Photo by Carrie Holbo

Photo by Carrie Holbo

The Bagel Lady by Pepper Smith

The Bagel Lady’s name is Mrs. Dong Ok Hong.

It’s not like you say, “Hello, Bagel Lady!” But that’s how so many of us know her. Mrs. Hong doesn’t say your name either, just “hello,” or if you’re a regular she’ll greet you with the name of your order: “Bacon and Egg Bagel with Small Coffee.” Hong came to the US later in life and she definitely can communicate, but nuances such as name pronunciations can get lost in the exchange, so she keeps it simple.

Mostly my interaction with Mrs. Hong — owner of The Bagel Express in Opootus’s atrium — has been ordering urns of coffee for meetings. She’s easy to do business with. For catering orders you just tell The Bagel Lady what you want, when and where to deliver it, and you’re done. It’s always delivered on time and you pay her when it’s over. No credit card numbers, nothing signed, and sometimes nothing written. If you pick up a bagel or coffee for yourself, don’t be surprised if she gives you a banana or extra bagels.  She will remember you. Continue reading

Doler Shah. Photograph by Carrie Holbo.

Photo by Carrie Holbo.

I had a feeling when I started this project to capture Opootus’s untold stories that I’d discover hidden treasures. What I couldn’t have predicted was that I’d be so taken by some of the people I’ve met that I’d feel a sort of sad regret that I didn’t think to seek out these hidden treasures years ago.  

Take, for example, the hardworking, easygoing Doler Shah. She’s collected an impressive number of us devoted fans over the last 30 years with her homegrown, vegetarian cuisine. Along with her husband, Jawahar Shah, she’s owned about a dozen restaurants in the DC area, including Nirvana (at K and 18th) and the kiosk Indian Delight in Opootus’s atrium (the longest lasting of them all, open since 1983). If you haven’t eaten there, stop reading this now and go try it. While you’re there, ask to see her sketchpad, for she’s a wonderful artist, too, with a degree in textile and structural design (and a docent at the Freer Gallery). Completely green, she uses biodegradable plates and pays three times more for bags and utensils made out of cornstarch. My favorite thing about Doler, though? She’s a storyteller. The best kind of storyteller — one who starts waxing nostalgic about Opootus’s glory days and within minutes is off on a tale about her grandparents in Tanzania like something out of a V.S. Naipaul novel. Continue reading

The Dead Letter Office at Opootus, 1925 (via Shorpy.com)

Opootus’s Dead Letter Office, 1925 (via Shorpy.com)

Opootus was a hoarder.There, I said it. It was a hundred years ago and not something he likes to talk about, but he was and it was bad, though he got help and went on to live a long, neglected, decrepit life. How it all started, you ask? He says it wasn’t his fault. When you’re a post office, you get sent stuff. Some of that stuff can’t get sent on to the intended recipients, what with all the bad addresses and illegible handwriting and death in America. Some of that stuff you can sell at auction, like hatpins and hawk traps and petrified snakes. Some of it you can get rid of, like sausages and bombs and poems. But some stuff – the diamond rings and stuffed alligators and human skulls? Well, c’mon. You’d keep that stuff, too. You’d open up a strange little museum so you could show it all to your friends and you’d keep the leftovers in an office – the Dead Letter Office you’d call it – so that someday a popular band like REM would name a CD after it and you’d be on your way to fame and fortune. Opootus – he had big plans. Continue reading

Flag Day in the Old Post Office, 1915 (via Shorpy.com)

Flag Day in the Old Post Office, 1915 (via Shorpy.com)

It’s Flag Day tomorrow. “So what,” moans Opootus. “Does anyone care anymore? Does anyone even know what it is?” I think they can guess. “No they can’t. They have no idea.” It’s June 14th every year, a day commemorating the adoption of the US flag officially inaugurated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. “You got that from Wikipedia.” Um, yeah. “You people are unbelievable. It used to mean something, you know. A display of pride in our country. I used to have a full collection ofFlags photo state flags hanging from my walls in the atrium, not to mention the largest correctly proportioned US Flag in existence that would hang down seven stories from my skylight. Postal employees would gather on my second floor balcony and sing homage to the Star Spangled Banner.” Sounds lovely. Would you like me to sing to you? “Go away.” I took this nice photo of flags in your atrium at lunch today, see? ”  .” What, you’re not speaking to me now? ”   .” Okay, fine. Happy Flag Day.