So there is a restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in leafy Upper Northwest DC called Comet Ping Pong. They serve New Haven-style pizza and many people say it’s quite good. (I haven’t had the opportunity to go yet). The restaurant, which has already had to remove its ping pong tables from the sidewalk to allay fears of pizza and pong-induced hooliganism, was going through the byzantine hoops of DC local government to be permitted to stay open late, have live music and build a patio with seating. That’s where Marc Fisher picks up:
Winstead [a local activist], who has taken it upon himself to act as the guardian of clear and quiet streets in his section of Northwest Washington, replied: “Safety. James is trying to turn this into Adams Morgan, with the murders, the rapes….” At this point, the crowd’s roar overwhelmed the commissioner’s remarks.
But Winstead wasn’t done. Twice more during a 45-minute debate on the merits (and technicalities) of allowing a restaurant located on a commercial strip well apart from any residences to serve its loyal customers deep into the night, Winstead took off on Alefantis. He accused the owner of “filling up his fat wallet.” Then Winstead started yelling about Alefantis spitting on customers’ food. “He’s lying, cheating!” the commissioner shouted.
Commission chairman Jane Solomon kept trying to rein in her wayward colleague (“Frank, that’s not helpful”), but it was rough sledding for a while.
And commissioner Cathy Wiss–who said she supported expanding Comet’s hours because her younger neighbors want to be able to eat and drink at a place that’s open late–nonetheless fretted that letting Comet stay open could “disturb the peace. We have gangs of American University students that walk down the middle of my street at 2 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays, yelling, screaming, singing, and my sense is that they’ve been out drinking somewhere,” she said.
Now there is so much to love about this. First of all, I know so many folks that whenever they get some pizza in ’em immediately feel compelled to murder and rape. It’s that simple formula, cheese+sauce+crust=violence. Forget drugs or poverty, everyone knows the greatest cause of violence and urban blight is pizza. And God forbid that pizza is tradition New Haven white clam pizza, everybody knows that adding mollusks to that kind of dangerous equation is bound to exacerbate the situation.
Finally, I’d like to focus on Wiss’ statement describing “gangs of American University students.” I am fairly familiar with that institution. I have family members on the faculty and I’ve known many people who’ve graduated from there. I can assure you, the one word you never associate with AU is “gangs.”
Though if DC’s universities did eventually devolve into “The Warriors”-style gang violence, which school would you bet on? If we kept it DC-only, I am going with Georgetown… Those upturned polo shirt collars belie their truly violent “street” tendencies. If we expand to the suburbs, I am going with the University of Maryland, who on top of already being experienced in street warfare by being located in PG County, would unleash its trademark artillery weapon, the couch-itzer, firing the burning furniture straight into the enemy ranks.