City Desk

Still Got Questions? Reintroducing the Answers Column

Last week's Washington City Paper, you'll remember, was our second annual Answers Issue. And while we were able to address 27 questions—ranging from "Does D.C. have an Iron Dome?" to "Why does Metro smell like rotten fish sometimes?"—there are plenty of sharp queries we couldn't get to.

That's why we're reviving a feature we toyed with back in the fall: The Answers Column. Beginning later this month, every other Friday on City Desk we'll take a stab at a new question about life in the District. Have a question about Wilson Building intrigue? D.C. history? Restaurant openings? That weird thing on your block? We got you.

Direct your questions to And make sure you send us some good ones.

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  • max hensley

    We retrieved a copy of your paper from the Metro - it was left behind by a derelict wearing a Che T-shirt. Just thought you should know about the decline in your readership. We feel your pain.

    This notwithstanding, we did enjoy your piece on urban questions DC style. We live in San Antonio TX and found your paper to be a nice intro to the real world of DC that we'd never have obtained at the Smithsonian. Sort of like Poor Cousin LeBeau learns about the stable hands' lives while visiting the Earl's Palace.

    Of course, our most pressing question is "why on earth does anyone need that rotten corrupt cesspool that is Washington?" but that would be the sort of squeak one would expect from Flyover Territory. We will be ignored, our fate since the last election.

    Instead, we'll give you a serious inquiry: "When the middle class is having a hard time making ends meet, why is DC installing cut granite curbs?" We here in TX don't truck with granite unless it flips up off the road and puts another ding in the windshield - much less having LGBT, physically-challenged masons with PhDs in Assyrian history chisel out perfect corner arcs using historically-appropriate wrought iron chisels in a billion dollar Federal stimulus program. Why can't you make do with asphalt for the curbs?


    Max and Billinda Hensley

    San Antonio, TX

    PS I hate papers like yours, as a general rule. I think they were all founded by trust funders feeling guilty about all that money ol' Grandpa Skins made from those sweatshops, or frustrated artists venting their resentment at finding no market for their art in a world of Damien Hursts, so to make up for it they spew their left-wing drivel at us, uninvited. Your rag was mercifully more or less free of that. Thank you.

  • Keith

    @ Max and Billinda Hensley,

    I'll let your attempts at "humor" slide in an attempt to educate and enlighten you. There are two answers to your question, one is historical and the other is based in the quality control realm.

    Most older cities onthe east coast (i.e. Boston, Philly, NYC, Baltimore, Richmond) have granite curbs in their downtown/older regions because the ships that services those ports in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century carried granite slabs for ballast when their holds werent filled with goods for sale/trade. After they dumbed their granite ballast the city would put them to good use as curbs (back then curbs were much higher due to poor drainage and sewer flowing throughout the streets).

    Now-a-days cities such as DC and Chicago use granite curbs because they last considerably longer than concrete curbs and surprisingly are not that much more expensive. Another reason is that concrete cracks (and crumbles) much more easily in the free-thaw cycle that exists in the upper north east, granite is more resistant to those conditions.

    You're welcome,

    -DC raised Texas resident