D.C. gets a bad rap...and it's partly deserved. Sometimes it feels like the rest of the country is quick to point out what heartless, detached, self-absorbed people live here - and we don't do much to correct them. But then there are people who bring out the best in us, and the city feels a little empty without them.
Peter Bis was "our" resident homeless man. By "our", I mean that
anyone on Capitol Hill (or probably all of northeast DC) likely had
contact with him. He spent every day across the street from my office,
where he'd tell the constant stream of blackberry-obsessed people how
many days were left till the weekend. The countdown was usually
accompanied by a loud "And no skinny-dipping!" Man, I loved watching
young interns react to that. And for those who he saw regularly, he had a
remarkable memory and could keep up a month-long conversation, or ask
you a question about something mentioned weeks ago. He especially loved
comparing people to old-time celebrities - he usually called me Veronica Lake (he was a charmer when he wasn't yelling about something).
Now I don't want to give the wrong impression - Peter was by no
means only charming and friendly. He was also cranky...or as he said
when I asked how he was doing on Tuesday, "cynical and esoteric." You
never knew when he was going to be in a bad mood, but he made others so
happy on his good days that no one responded in kind when he was moody.
His encouragement for us made us want to make him laugh when he couldn't
do it for himself.
Peter passed away from a heart attack on Wednesday night. Since
then, the tributes from all over the city have been constant. Almost
every news outlet has included some sort of remembrance of him (and his crazy conspiracy theories).
Individuals have shared stories about their inside jokes and
conversations about his "girlfriend", Princess Diana. And walking by his
spot to lunch today, I saw this.
Thank you, Peter, for making us a community, and making it a better one. It's the weekend - no skinny dipping!