This Week On Metro Connection: Up All Night (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

This Week On Metro Connection: Up All Night

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And you know that famous line from that famous hit by Frank Sinatra?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Well, obviously, Old Blue Eyes is referring here to New York, New York, but on this week's show, in honor of the upcoming Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, we're gonna sort of, kind of take the chairman of the board's line and apply it to our own fair city. So we're calling today's program, "Up All Night." And over the next hour, we'll explore the Washington that's buzzing and humming after the sun goes down. We'll go on night rounds with doctors caring for kids in a cardiac ICU.

DR. CRAIG FUTTERMAN

What I've decided over the years, I'm no longer going to be surprised by anything that can happen. I have to be ready to say, all right, I could be awake all night, and I can do it.

SHEIR

We'll search for alley cats in the wee, small hours of the morning.

MS. AMANDA NOVOTNY

The truth about feral cats is that they live outside, they've lived outside their whole lives, and the outdoors is their home.

SHEIR

And we'll tuck in to French toast and eggs over easy at one of the region's oldest 24/7 diners.

SHEIR

So when people come in at, like, 2:00, 3:00 a.m., do you say good night or good morning?

MR. KYLE BRICK

Have a nice day. 'Cause I mean, they're going to sleep, I’m starting my day.

SHEIR

Now I know what many of you might be thinking, not everyone necessarily associates D.C. with being a city that doesn't sleep, but 24 hours a day, there are certain places you can visit in the nation's capital that, without fail, are always open.

SHEIR

In fact, we're at one of them right now. It's nearing midnight, and based on the hullabaloo, you'd probably think we're, what, at a hopping club? A busy restaurant maybe? A crowded bar? Well, think again. We're actually on the west end of the National Mall, at the Lincoln Memorial. Like all the memorials on the Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And why is Henry Bacon's neoclassical temple such a go-to destination once the sun goes down? Well, let's hear from the people who've flocked to this particular hotspot tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1

Yeah, I like the lighting so it really stands out among, like, darkness. I think it's pretty cool during the night.

SHEIR

Are you surprised at the number of people who are out and about here in the evening?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2

Actually, yeah, going up here, walking up here, I was like, wow, there are a lot of people up there.

SHEIR

It's kind of a scene.

#2

Yeah.

#1

And we appear to be the oldest.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3

Don't they all have bedtimes?

SHEIR

What brings you to the Lincoln Memorial here at like almost midnight?

#3

Well, it's well lit, and I think most of the pictures of the Lincoln Memorial are at night so gotta come at night.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1

I think the monuments are beautiful at night. It's my favorite time to see them.

SHEIR

Would you say this is kind of a romantic place to come?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4

I think the majority of the people here are couples are kids so...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5

I'm a resident. I've been working here for one year and we, well, we like the monuments here even more in the evenings, so we really like the lighting and everything. Make it even more mysterious, special. The most beautiful is when the sun is going down and everything's turning red. That's what I like the best. We love it.

SHEIR

Those were some nighttime visitors to the Lincoln Memorial, just one of the memorials open 24/7 on the National Mall.

SHEIR

We're going to head east on the Mall now, up to a spot in Lafayette Square, just across the street from the White House. That's where a woman some call the original occupier sits in a chair all day and all night to promote, as she says, the cause of peace. Her name is Concepcion Picciotto and she's been occupying that spot, if you will, for 31 years. Now there's a push to commemorate her struggle with a national memorial. Marc Adams brings us the story.

MS. CONCEPCION PICCIOTTO

(Speaks foreign language)

MR. MARC ADAMS

By day, Concepcion Picciotto courts endless streams of tourists, from all over the world, educating them on what she describes as the danger of a nuclear catastrophe. By night, Picciotto sits alone in her chair, at times enduring not only extreme temperatures, but also what she says has been harassment by passersby and police alike. Aided by her late partner in protest William Thomas, Picciotto has been maintaining her peace vigil directly across from the White House most every day and night since 1981.

MR. MARC ADAMS

Why do you do it? Why have you done it for three decades now?

PICCIOTTO

I have a cause, and seeking justice and peace that (unintelligible) here. Peace and justice.

ADAMS

If Picciotto had her way, all nuclear weapons would be dismantled, starting with those in the U.S. It's a view she doesn't hesitate to share with anyone who stops by her 15 foot long camp on the edge of Lafayette Square Park.

PICCIOTTO

With no more killing innocent people and destruction of the planet.

#1

I agree.

ADAMS

Picciotto's vigil structure is made up of a tarp in the shape of a small cave, opening out toward the White House. It's the only thing separating this small, elderly woman from the elements. On either side of the tarp is a large wooden board, covered with anti-war quotes and grizzly pictures of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. The site pulls tourists' eyes away from the grandeur of the White House and toward the ugliness of war.

#1

This is my first time here, my husband and I, and we're all about this. I mean, we believe in peace, we believe in anti-war. We won't even let our children go and join the war because it's not our fight.

#1

The person who's doing it looks like of loony and it sort of trivializes the very serious issue.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2

She seems a little bit off her rocker, but I do think it's good that the kids sort of get to talk to someone who's representing a different, almost even extreme view, just to sort of challenge what they think.

ADAMS

Now, Picciotto's supporters, many of whom came from the Occupy movement, have started modest efforts to make her peace vigil a permanent monument. Plans are underway to draft up a formal proposal to create a national peace memorial in Lafayette Square Park.

MR. CHARLES HOLSOPPLE

Robbie's at the vigil, is that what you said? Yeah, yeah.

ADAMS

Charles Holsopple, a friend of Picciotto's who occasionally helps staff the vigil, came up with the idea several months ago.

HOLSOPPLE

I would like a spot that would represent the commitment and the further commitment it's going to take in order to have peace, that when people come there, it's a solemn, sacred spot.

ADAMS

Eventually, the proposal would need authorization from either Congress or the President, and according to Peter May at the National Park Service, that seems unlikely.

MR. PETER MAY

There is guidance in a Commemorative Works Act that says that a new memorial should not encroach upon an existing memorial, and there are memorial elements already in Lafayette Square, so it's hard to picture how something new might be put in there without potentially encroaching upon it. It doesn't mean that it can't be done, it just -- it's another complication.

ADAMS

He says most new memorials are authorized at a rate of about one per year, if that. Still, Holsopple remains undeterred. He plans on producing a series of videos and posting them online to help encourage people to back the plan for the memorial. And while Picciotto likes the idea, she doesn't see herself ending her around the clock protests any time soon.

ADAMS

Will this potential peace memorial, in your mind, attract more people to the cause of peace?

PICCIOTTO

I hope so. I hope that the more people know, the more people get involved.

ADAMS

But any official approval for a memorial may be just as elusive as the peace which it would be meant to promote. Then again, that's what Picciotto likely heard in the early years about her chances of being able to continue her protest for any meaningful length of time. I'm Marc Adams.

SHEIR

You can find pictures of Concepcion Picciotto's decades-old peace vigil at our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

After the break, going on the prowl for Washington's alley cats.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3

Yeah, I'm known as the cat lady.

SHEIR

It's just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." With the longest day of the year coming up next week, today we're staying up all night. Coming up, we'll go on a crack-of-dawn hunt for alley cats and check out the debate over how to handle feral felines. We'll also hear a very personal tale about what it's like to burn the midnight oil caring for an elderly parent.

SHEIR

But first, we turn to a group of people who regularly spend their nights performing small and sometimes large miracles. And they do it armed with compassion, a healthy dose of caffeine and quite a bit of medical expertise. They're the doctors and nurses in the cardiac intensive care unit at Children's National Medical Center. Jonathan Wilson spent a night with these folks along with the many families thankful for their help.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

With the proliferation of hospital dramas on primetime television these days, it's very easy to forget just how quiet the nightshift in a hospital can be. But inside the cardiac ICU at Children's National Medical Center, the only ICU in the D.C. area focusing specifically on cardiac patients, it's often quiet and harrowing at the same time.

FUTTERMAN

All right. His heart is much better, but he still has diastolic dysfunction. So we're just going to proceed slowly as he continues to recover.

WILSON

Dr. Craig Futterman is in charge tonight. Right now, he's making rounds getting and giving updates on the 16 children here tonight. He says two or three children are still unstable requiring interventions every 20 minutes or so. But he thinks all are headed in the right direction. But he also says things can change very quickly.

FUTTERMAN

What I've decided over the years, I'm no longer going to be surprised by anything that can happen. I have to be ready to say, all right, I can be awake all night, and I can do it.

WILSON

Futterman is one of seven attending doctors who rotate through this ICU. He ends up working the nightshift about once a week. He's a small energetic man who sports a closely-cropped salt and pepper beard and he likes talking about cardiology. That's a good thing for Dr. Peter Dean, the cardiology fellow on call tonight. Dean is near the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to doctors here and one of the reasons he's here other than to help save lives is to learn from Dr. Futterman. Dean says the nightshift can be exhausting, but it's actually the slow nights that get to him.

DR. PETER DEAN

The really -- the slow nights or the ones that kids aren't very sick, that's great. That's a wonderful thing. But sometimes that night drags on. It's 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. whereas if there's a lot going on, new kids coming in, then sometimes you turn around, it's 7:00 and you're ready to go home and it goes by quickly.

WILSON

Tonight, one child doctors and nurses are watching closely is two-week-old Zachary Wancjer. He was born five weeks premature with a congenital defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which affects the way blood mixes and flows in his heart. He's a day removed from corrective surgery and his tiny body seems lost amid all the tubes and sensors surrounding him. Zachary's father Hershel says even though he and his wife Dana knew about their son's condition before he was born, the emotional peaks and valleys of the past couple of weeks have been extreme.

HERSHEL WANCJER

It's a rollercoaster. We're on sort of an uptick. Last night was sort of a downtick. He had a rough first night adapting to all the changes that they made in his heart.

WILSON

Dana Wancjer said she's actually been getting a few three-hour stretches of sleep while her son is sedated to help him heal.

DANA WANCJER

Once he comes out of the paralysis state and the sedation and he's more awake, I probably won't ever leave this room. So I'm trying to sort of think about that and take advantage of resting now 'cause there will be a time probably soon, perhaps by tomorrow, that that won't be happening.

WILSON

But while patients and their families can sometimes snatch some sleep and even doctors can occasionally lie down for a few hours, it's nurses who often literally keep the blood bumping here.

MANCCI BARRIS

Why don't you go now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE

Because I -- like, I can't leave you with all this to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 2

Can you go? Please go. You need a break. You exit.

WILSON

Mancci Barris (sp?) is one of the charge nurses in the ICU. A native of the Philippines, she stands less than 5' tall and seems perpetually to have a disproportionately large cup of coffee at her side.

BARRIS

Oh, yes. I can't do nightshift without coffee.

WILSON

Barris says she likes the nightshift better. There are fewer doctors and nurses roaming the halls and a greater opportunity to focus on patients. And Barris says the sometimes quiet atmosphere means the staff needs to be even more prepared for the worst when it comes.

BARRIS

You need to have a strong staff of highly skilled workers to respond to whatever emergencies that could possibly erupt because we're it.

WILSON

For all the coffee they may consume, Dr. Futterman says all it takes for the doctors and nurses here to shift into high gear is a patient who needs help. Even after 25 years and even though he's sworn off ever being surprised, a busy ICU is enough to make him a little nervous. And he says that's a good thing.

FUTTERMAN

Sometimes if it's a very busy unit with a lot of unstable patients, all right, I'll have a little bit of angst going into it. But I'll tell you, if it's been a very busy night and I've done my job well, it's a rush. You know, you leave the unit in the morning knowing that everybody's still alive. A bunch of them could've died, but didn't because of the good work that you did. It's a great feeling.

WILSON

And make no mistake, even on a quite night like this one, lives have been changed and saved in the cardiac ICU. I'm Jonathan Wilson.

SHEIR

So for the doctors we just heard from, it's part of their job to take care of people in the wee small hours. But the woman we'll meet next has become somewhat of a nighttime caretaker, not professionally, but personally. And the person she's been caring for is her elderly father who has been suffering from dementia. Jane Beard got in touch with us through WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their experiences with us and a way for us to reach out for input on stories we're working on.

SHEIR

"Metro Connection's" Emily Friedman met Jane and handed over the microphone so she could record "Metro Connection's" first ever audio diary. Jane Beard recorded for a week, mostly during the middle of the night, inside her bedroom closet. And here's her story.

MS. JANE BEARD

My name is Jane Beard. I live in Silver Spring, Md. I have lived in this house with my husband and kids and also my father. He's 88 and he moved in about nine months ago. My dad was in World War II. He was in a unit of guys that were sent into Europe right before the Battle of the Bulge. And they were sent in with only their summer weight uniforms. And there was documentation of the fact that the military had to decide whether to send munitions or winter weight uniforms for these guys, and they sent munitions.

MS. JANE BEARD

So there they were in the trenches in snow in cold weather. He got taken out of the Battle of the Bulge, right before it started, with frozen feet and was in a military hospital for about 18 months afterwards. He has bad dreams many nights a week and they are bad dreams. He shouts out, he is moving in his dreams. He's disoriented when you go in afterwards. He will sometimes think I'm a nurse. He'll sometimes think I'm another patient. And the next morning, he never remembers that this stuff has happened.

MS. JANE BEARD

He isn't getting treated for PTSD, although he's on anti-anxiety medication. We have help here 12 hours a day. They bathe him. They do all the heavy lifting, for the most part. And so a lot of the times when I wake up hearing him, I just spend hours awake just trying to figure out why it's so hard. What's wrong with me that this is so hard?

MS. JANE BEARD

I can actually remember an exact spot by a tree in our backyard where I declared to both of my parents that if my father died, I would die and that so therefore, I would have to die before him. My definition of me comes from him. His companion of ten years was dying. He was really tanking and he said he needed another solution. So we offered him to come live with us for a week or ten days until we could introduce him to some assisted living places. I had five different places lined up for him to look at. And then he got here and he didn't want to go.

MS. JANE BEARD

So in the house right now, I live here with my husband, Jeffrey B. Davis. So Jeff, I just want to ask you, what is it like for you to have my father in our house?

MR. JEFFREY DAVIS

The main thing is basically it's okay for me. It's harder on you because it's your dad. At the same time, there are times when it's pretty challenging. You know, when we're alone with him and he gets -- starts having the messes and the like and I know that he needs my help so I'll go into the bathroom and deal with it. But it's like a part of me has to pull away because I just -- you know, I just don't actually want to be there with him while we're dealing with that stuff.

BEARD

Do you think it would be different if it was your dad?

DAVIS

I think that, you know, when it's your dad or mom, I guess, but when, you know, it's different from when it's your spouse's. And also, you know, you go, okay, I'm doing the right thing. I know we're doing the right thing, when you visited nursing homes.

BEARD

Yeah, we're doing the right thing.

DAVIS

We're doing the right thing. He's got space and he's got family around him and he's got a lot of attention and...

BEARD

His dog.

DAVIS

...he's got his dog, all these things. And so it's fine and I want it to be over.

BEARD

And then I think about, well, being over means he's dead. And I don't want to wish for that. I know that my dad is being a dad now in ways that I can't articulate. I'm learning from him. I am seeing myself and my whole family through new eyes. I love him. I really do love him, but just like things can be easy and hard, so is the way you can love somebody.

SHEIR

That was Jane Beard and her husband Jeffrey Davis of Silver Spring, Md. Their story was produced by Emily Friedman. For more information on our Public Insight Network, visit metroconnection.org/pen.

SHEIR

So we humans aren't the only ones up late at night. There are all sorts of creatures prowling our urban landscape long after the sun goes down. Take, for instance, feral cats. Genetically, they're like a housecat, but they're born in the wild. As environment reporter Sabri Ben-Achour tells us, trying to get a handle on these felines keeps a very particular group of individuals up all night and well into the morning.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

In an alley off of 10th Street Northeast, old grapevines, garbage cans and chain link fences are all the same yellow hue under the harsh glow of street lamps. It's 4:00 in the morning. Amanda Novotny is unloading her station wagon.

NOVOTNY

So these are humane box traps.

BEN-ACHOUR

Novotny is with Alley Cat Allies. She's trapping feral cats.

NOVOTNY

So when the cats enter the trap, they have to go all the way to the back to get the food and they step on a trip plate which makes the door close behind them.

BEN-ACHOUR

There are at least 13 feral cats, including five kittens that live in this alley.

MS. PAT GILLIAM

Well, I could show you the damage they've done to my car.

BEN-ACHOUR

Pat Gilliam is a neighbor. She watches the scene from her balcony.

GILLIAM

These cats are too wild. They keep mating. And when they mate, it's a bunch of raucous. You know that. And then the babies come and they get aggressive because of the kittens and, like, they attack my dog and me.

BEN-ACHOUR

Amanda Novotny and another neighbor, Kathy Sinzinger walk up to a back porch full of cats and set out the traps.

MS. KATHY SINZINGER

The black and white one on the steps is the grandma cat who's been sentry.

NOVOTNY

Smelling around the front of the cage -- the trap thinking about it.

BEN-ACHOUR

Thinking about it, but like typical cats, grandma is unimpressed.

GILLIAM

We all have a bet that the black and white one will never be caught because she's smart.

BEN-ACHOUR

After a half hour, one of the mothers takes the bait. She isn't happy, not at all. But these cats aren't being taken away, at least not for long. They're just taking a trip to the vet, says Novotny.

NOVOTNY

So male cats are neutered, female cats are spayed. They're getting their rabies vaccination. Their left ear, the very tip of that is removed so the ear tip is a universal sign that lets people know that that cat has already undergone spay neuter surgery. We'll pick them up tomorrow morning and release them tomorrow afternoon.

BEN-ACHOUR

This is called Trap Neuter Release or TNR, fix the cats and put them back. Novotny says after getting fixed, they won't be as aggressive, won't howl, won't fight and most importantly won't reproduce. Still having the cats back doesn't thrill Gilliam.

GILLIAM

I just feel that they shouldn't be able to run loose like this.

BEN-ACHOUR

The alternative, though, is for the cats to be put down. Feral adult cats taken to a shelter will get euthanized because they're unadoptable.

GILLIAM

See, I do not want any animal euthanized at all. I just wish they had a home, but they too wild to have a home, aren't they? No, bring them back. No, bring them back.

BEN-ACHOUR

As she speaks the colony's matriarch finally takes notice of the trap.

GILLIAM

Mama's going in there. We got mama. Yeah, 'cause mama is (unintelligible) .

BEN-ACHOUR

Now Trap Neuter Return has its detractors.

MR. ROBERT JOHNS

There is no reason to believe it works.

BEN-ACHOUR

Robert Johns is with the American Bird Conservancy.

JOHNS

The University of Nebraska did an exhaustive literature search on this issue and they could not find a single legitimate case where TNR actually eliminated a cat colony.

BEN-ACHOUR

And, he points out, cats are predators.

JOHNS

When you save the cat by putting it in a colony, what in fact you're doing is killing a handful of wildlife every year.

BEN-ACHOUR

He claims 500 million birds and other small creatures are killed by cats every year. TNR advocates point to numerous anecdotal cases where the practice has worked, including at sites in D.C. And Fairfax County says the strategy has reduced the number of feral kittens brought into its shelters by almost 60 percent. Back on 10th Street with almost all of the adult cats in traps, Novotny has just pulled two kittens out of a drainpipe. These kittens are young enough to be socialized. Unlike most of the cats born on the streets of D.C., they are now looking for a home. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

You can find photos, tips on deterring feral cats and information on how to adopt kittens on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Time now to pass the microphone over to you and read from your letters. On our regular "D.C. Gigs" segment, we recently featured a U.S. Army bugler who performs "Taps" at funerals in Arlington National Cemetery. Well, our listener, Julie, heard that story and was prompted to share this tale.

SHEIR

"The late father of one of my childhood friends was himself an army bugler during the Vietnam War. While at Arlington National Cemetery, he got the notion that he could play 'Taps' while aloft in one of the magnificent trees that grace the cemetery. Three-quarters of the way up, he fell and broke his leg, but fortunately not his bugle. Mustering up all his discipline and musicianship, he managed to perform a rendition of 'Taps.' From a musician's standpoint that was the worst version of 'Taps' ever.

SHEIR

However, the family heard a poignant, haunting rendition and following the ceremony had the sergeant in charge help find him to convey their appreciation. Their praise mitigated the pain of his broken leg, but didn't relieve him of the sergeant's wrath and non-judicial punishment he was awarded for his creative license."

SHEIR

Lauren Landau recently did a piece about upper Northwest D.C.'s Eruv, the wire that creates a symbolic boundary for Jews who observe the Sabbath. The story prompted feedback from people of many faiths including this anonymous listener who writes, "I'm Christian, but interested in all religions. When I visited Israel, I remembered the hotels for Shabbat, they would automatically set the elevators to stop at every floor because the observant Jews were not allowed to press the buttons because the modern interpretation of starting fire had been extended to include electricity.

SHEIR

What is equally interesting for me is the ways people of all religious traditions mold their belief systems to be able to adapt to changing times." And finally, not so much a letter as a shout-out really, we were delighted to see that D.C. Brau, our city's very own brewing company, has unveiled a limited release oatmeal stout called "Hell's Bottom." Its inspiration was a story about the once notorious D.C. neighborhood, Hell's Bottom, which we featured on our monthly segment, "The Location," with Kim Bender.

SHEIR

So we raise a glass both to Ms. Bender and to the folks at D.C. Brau. Do you have a comment or question about the show? You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or you can send us a tweet at wamumetro.

SHEIR

Up next, time to make the cupcakes and some pretty wild ones at that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ONE

It's a cornmeal cupcake with a chicken nugget breast inside of it topped with maple butter cream and drizzled with maple syrup. I know people probably say, fried chicken in a cupcake? But if you like the savory and the sweet, it's the perfect cupcake for you.

SHEIR

That and more coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we're burning the midnight oil and "Staying Up All Night." So far, we've dropped by the National Mall, we've done rounds at Children's National Medical Center, we've drifted through alleyways and this point, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling just a little bit peckish. Now, I know, I know, D.C. isn't exactly famous for its 24-hour dining scene.

SHEIR

I mean, the city does have a smattering of 24/7 eateries, like the diner in Adams Morgan, Osman & Joe's Steak & Egg Kitchen in Tenleytown. And on the weekends, you can always toss in stand-bys like Annie's Paramount Steakhouse and Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in DuPont Circle.

SHEIR

But if you head out of the city and into the suburbs...

SHEIR

So here we are in lovely downtown Bethesda going up Wisconsin.

SHEIR

As I recently did with "Metro Connection" producer, Tara Boyle.

SHEIR

How would you describe the streets right now? I'm seeing people.

MS. TARA BOYLE

Yes, there are people out here in Bethesda too, out at 12:54 am. It's kind of amazing.

SHEIR

You'll find quite a few more options in the 24-7 eating department, like Amphora's Diner Deluxe in Herndon, Bob and Edith's Diner in Arlington, Double-T Diner in Catonsville, and then in Silver Spring, Laurel and, yes, Bethesda.

SHEIR

Dude, we're here.

SHEIR

The Tastee Diner.

SHEIR

I like how it's Tastee, T-A-S-T-E-E. I like that.

SHEIR

The Silver Spring branch hails back to 1946. Laurel's been going strong since 1951. And in Bethesda...

SHEIR

There's a great neon sign in the window. It says, open eats. Awesome.

SHEIR

The old-fashioned dining cab on Woodmont Avenue has been around since 1935.

SHEIR

Here we go.

SHEIR

And despite a kitchen fire 10 years ago, not only does Tastee's still smell like a classic diner...

SHEIR

Can you describe the smell for our listeners out there, since this is radio after all?

BOYLE

Deep fried, decadent, delight basically.

SHEIR

It looks and feels like a classic diner, too. You've got your old-fashioned counter with bolted-down stools, your cushy pleather booths with mini-juke-boxes and, of course, the healthy helping or not-so-healthy helping of greasy-spoon goodies, made fresh to order on a sizzling hot griddle.

MR. LARRY HALL

Well, the diner is Bethesda. Without the diner, there's no Bethesda.

SHEIR

Larry Hall's been working at Tastee's for about seven years.

BOYLE

Tell us about the regulars who come here.

HALL

We have -- mostly customers that come here, they're people that are like second, third-generation of customers. You know, their grandparents been here, their parents, their kids and their kids.

SHEIR

And during our visit, Tara and I meet quite a few of those long-timers, like Andrew, a 20-something Bethesda native who's wolfing down a chocolate shake and fries with his friends, Corinne and Carly.

SHEIR

So is the Tastee Diner a place you come to often?

ANDREW

Yes, I would say a few times a week, late at night.

SHEIR

At this point, the crew has been nocturnally noshing at Tastee's so long that, as Corinne says...

CORINNE

It's kind of like home when it's late at night, you know? Because really there's nowhere else to go, so this is kind of the hub for us.

SHEIR

And for a whole lot of other people, too. Corinne says Tastee's' late-night scene attracts all kinds of characters.

CORINNE

Definitely just a lot of motley crews will come in when you're there at weird hours. Of course, we probably look like motley crews when we come in, too, so I guess I can't judge.

SHEIR

Kyle Brick waits tables on the overnight shift.

SHEIR

How long have you been working here?

BRICK

I've been here almost two years. It'll be two years in August.

SHEIR

And he says the motley-est crews he's seen...

BOYLE

What's the weirdest thing you've seen here in the middle of the night?

SHEIR

...are the lovebirds.

BRICK

Probably the romantic types getting too frisky. That happens quite often.

BOYLE

Do you sanitize the booths after...

BRICK

We've got our cases of Lysol ready to go.

SHEIR

Kyle says Tastee's is at its rowdiest once the bars close.

BRICK

It gets pretty busy during the night rush.

SHEIR

How busy is pretty busy?

BRICK

We'll have all the tables filled up, four, five, six people in each table. We'll have a line out the door, almost to the street sometimes.

SHEIR

And as the night wears on, that's precisely what happens.

BOYLE

Holy smokes, look at that line. There's now about two dozen people in line waiting to get into the Tastee Diner now.

SHEIR

If you were to put, like, a velvet rope, it would be like they're waiting to get into a club.

BOYLE

Yes, it's the happening spot.

MR. AL SNOWDEN

In about 10 or 15 minutes, it's going to get real loose in here.

SHEIR

Al Snowden started cooking at Tastee's in 1978, so he knows all about the after-bar rush.

SHEIR

It's 2:00 o'clock now so like, 2:15?

SNOWDEN

Yes. First Maryland, then D.C. closes at 3:00. So we get a double whammy and usually cleaning up around 4:30. You haven't seen nothing yet, I guess is what I'm saying.

SHEIR

After so much time behind the counter, Al's pretty much seen it all at Tastee's.

BOYLE

And so what's the strangest thing you've seen in all your years here?

SNOWDEN

Strangest thing I've seen? I don't know if I can say that on radio. You know, actually you'd be surprised who you're sitting next to. You can have a street bum here, you can have a senator here and the street bum looks better than the senator, you know.

SHEIR

But not only has Al Snowden seen it all, he's cooked it all too. Tastee's menu is a five-page compendium of comfort food and if you don't see what you want...

SNOWDEN

If you can tell me what it is and how exactly you want it, we'll do our best to get it there. If you can't tell me, I can't do it.

SHEIR

In the case of me and Tara, once we sit down at our booth, we see exactly what we want it and it's all about breakfast.

BOYLE

I have four pieces of French toast in front of me and it looks amazing. It's got a little powdered sugar on there. It smells just the way French toast should.

SHEIR

That's good. That is good, dare I say, it's tasty.

SHEIR

For Tara and me, this is where our night ends. After we polish off our food, we head out the door where a bustling line of people awaits, all of them eager for burgers and breakfast, hot cakes and hot coffee, and in the wee small hours of the morning, none of them ready to call it a day.

SHEIR

To see snapshots from our late night excursion to Bethesda's Tastee Diner, visit our website, metroconnection.org. And if you have a favorite late night dining spot, we'd love to hear about it. Send an email to metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is wamumetro.

SHEIR

Now, presumably those party people who hit up Tastee's in the wee small hours will eat their eggs and wolf down their waffles and then stagger home to hit the hay somewhere around the crack of dawn. And that, as it happens, is right around the time the people we'll meet next are getting their day started.

SHEIR

Adele Cothorne and Bill Kerlina used to be principals with D.C. Public Schools. And last June, they both left their jobs. Not for another school system, but for the gourmet cupcake business and the extremely early hours that business requires. Kavitha Cardoza brings us their story.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Adele Cothorne cuts up chunks of slippery, glistening white cream cheese to weigh.

MS. ADELE COTHORNE

I use a scale because I've learned when you're producing large batches, it doesn't help to use measuring spoons.

MS. ADELE COTHORNE

She wakes up at 4:00 in the morning to begin a long day. At the beginning of the week, she bakes about 500 cupcakes a day. But by Friday...

MS. ADELE COTHORNE

I might bake 700 or 800 and then on Saturday, we pretty much lose count.

CARDOZA

Cothorne delights in dreaming up new cupcake varieties. There's a pomegranate martini cupcake, a bacon cupcake, and even a fried chicken cupcake.

COTHORNE

So it's a cornmeal cupcake with a chicken nugget breast inside of it, topped with maple butter cream and drizzled with maple syrup. If you like the savory and the sweet, it's the perfect cupcake for you.

CARDOZA

Opening Cooks 'n Cakes Bakery has been a leap of faith for Cothorne. She was an educator for 16 years in Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery County school districts. But she says one year as principal of Noyes Education Campus in Northeast D.C. was enough for her. Last year she left a $127,000 job with DCPS to start a gourmet cupcake business along with another disillusioned principal, Bill Kerlina.

MR. BILL KERLINA

And so I did jump on with the Michelle Rhee bandwagon, and was really hoping for true, strong reform for the school system.

CARDOZA

Both Kerlina and Cothorne were hired by former chancellor, Michelle Rhee, but left under current chancellor, Kaya Henderson. At least 17 principals are leaving DCPS this year, and a majority of them were hired by the former chancellor.

CARDOZA

Kerlina has 17 years of experience in education, mostly in Montgomery County. He was head of Hearst Elementary School in Northwest D.C. for two years. Both he and Cothorne stayed a far shorter time than the average five-year tenure of an urban public school principal. But both these former school administrators brighten when they recall their teachers, principals and especially the children.

COTHORNE

I loved the kids, of course, because they always come to you as they are. No hidden agendas.

CARDOZA

Ask them what they didn't like and they answer almost in unison. It's what they call DCPS's extreme, intense, overwhelming focus on testing.

COTHORNE

Just because you teach it on Monday at 2:00 and the kids don't get it, doesn't mean they're not going to get it Saturday at 3:00 pm, when a light bulb when they're at soccer practice. But we have gotten to a point that every child in that class must get it by Monday at 2:00 because we're going to test Tuesday morning at 9:00 and so you must have it. That's not natural learning.

CARDOZA

Both former principals say they received little support from DCPS's Central office.

COTHORNE

If your numbers don't look right, you're going to get a phone call or a nasty email, even though you're there 12-14 hours a day, sometimes getting advice from people who have never walked in your shoes. For me, personally, it was way too much.

CARDOZA

Kerlina says one incident in particular still upsets him.

KERLINA

The power went out at our school and it was rainy and cold and completely dark and I ended up asking the Sidwell principal if we could move our students over there.

CARDOZA

He says no one from the central office ever contacted him, so he decided to send everyone home.

KERLINA

I got my hand slapped. But if nobody calls from the central office, and I'm at a privately funded school who can only host me four hours, what am I supposed to do?

CARDOZA

DCPS doesn't offer any explanations about why principals leave. In general, DCPS spokesperson Melissa Salmanowitz says DCPS takes several issues into consideration, including test scores, family and community satisfaction, school culture and enrollment figures. But she says the focus is always on what's best for students.

CARDOZA

But research from the Wallace Foundation shows what's called principal churn creates serious problems for a school. Students, teachers and parents have to get used to the new person's priorities and new relationships have to be formed. Plus, there's always the danger staffers believe they don't need to do things differently because the new principal will leave soon as well.

COTHORNE

I'm about to melt some semi-sweet chocolate that is going to go in the middle of the s'mores cupcake and then top it with a marshmallow topping and some graham crackers. It's delicious.

CARDOZA

Cothorne says it's ironic the cupcakes she baked as gifts to cheer up her teachers have become her fulltime career. She says it was hard to leave her job in education, even though she would never go back to being a principal. For his part, Kerlina hasn't completely closed the door on returning.

KERLINA

Who knows what will happen in the future? I'm only 40, but certainly DCPS will not be in my future.

CARDOZA

Kerlina says he walked away from a $95,000 job and is making hardly any money now. Still, he believes he has something even more sweet, something that makes it easier to get out of bed early in the morning, a renewed sense of purpose. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.

SHEIR

To see a slideshow of Bill Kerlina and Adele Cothorne at work in their cupcake shop, head to our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Before we say goodbye today, we here at "Metro Connection" are pleased to announce a brand-new series on the show and it's a perfect fit for this week's "Up All Night" theme. We're calling it "D.C. Dives" and over the next few months, we'll be going on a bit of a bar crawl as we explore the city's most renowned and infamous watering holes, local institutions where neighborhood history is made and remembered. Jerad Walker takes us to the first dive in our series, the Raven Grill, in Mount Pleasant.

MR. JERAD WALKER

Despite its name, The Raven Grill does not serve food.

MS. GRETCHEN GEORGIADIS

Well, originally, when the Raven opened, it did have a grill in the back and they sold cheeseburgers for 15 cents. Pickled eggs were on the menu and a few other things. In fact, we found an original menu in the walls when we were renovating.

WALKER

But that was way back in 1935, shortly after Prohibition ended. So what's available now?

GEORGIADIS

Bags of Utz potato chips.

WALKER

Gretchen Georgiadis is the general manager of the Raven, a dive bar in the heart of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C. and one of the oldest drinking establishments in the District.

GEORGIADIS

We are the longest standing liquor license that has never changed address or closed and then reopened.

WALKER

So what's the secret to Raven's longevity?

GEORGIADIS

I think we have a really nice, eclectic staff as well as clientele. People don't come in here and pretend to be something they are not.

WALKER

Derek Brown is a bartender, author and owner of two high-end cocktail bars in D.C., the Passenger and the Columbia Room.

MR. DEREK BROWN

You know, I love cocktails and I love great service and those are things that animate the way I create a bar. But what I love more than that is authenticity. I love when you go to a place that is uncompromisingly itself.

WALKER

Brown's not alone. The Raven has a diverse crowd of likeminded regulars.

GEORGIADIS

Our clientele really runs the gamut. We have 80-some-year-old men that still come in here that hung out here back in the '40s. I've got, you know, 21-year-olds that come in on the weekends and I've got everything in between. We have a somewhat local celebrity that's here every day. He used to play with Aretha Franklin and he's on half of the music on our jukebox. And he'll come in every day and play songs that, you know, he was a studio musician with her and toured with her a couple of times as well.

WALKER

True to form, Nate Bradham shows up with a pocket full of $1 bills and begins to play an assortment of his favorite classic R&B tunes.

MR. NATE BRADHAM

I've been coming here since 1975 and I come back for the few friends that I do have, and the jukebox. I love that jukebox. I put my life savings in the jukebox. I love music, you know what I mean.

WALKER

And while the Raven is a relatively open and friendly place, like any good dive bar, it has some eccentricities, rough edges, and unwritten rules all patrons must abide by.

BROWN

It's kind of like this. I like Snickers and I like foie gras, right? And when I go into a 7-Eleven, I don't expect to get foie gras. And when I go into a four-star restaurant, I don't expect to get a Snickers bar. And each experience is great, but they are different.

WALKER

So what happens when you ask for foie gras at the Raven?

GEORGIADIS

I had a young lady come in the other night and ask for a hot toddy, and I almost had to stop myself from laughing. And she's like, oh, what? It's okay if you don't have honey. I said, sweetheart, I don't have honey, I don't have lemons, I don't have sugar, I don't have teabags, and I don't have hot water. So I can give you the shot of whiskey and that's about it.

BROWN

D.C. needs places like this to remind us that D.C. is comprised of a lot of different segments and populations. It's not just about the people, Hill staffers who come into town. It's not just about the hipsters and their bike lanes. It's not just about the African-American population. It's about a confluence of so many different kinds of people and it's what makes D.C., in my mind, the greatest city in the world.

WALKER

Do you think this is where those people meet in the middle?

BROWN

I think a lot of them meet here. You know, I've been in here nights with Ethiopians and Latinos and hipsters and white people and black people and black hipsters and old white guys, and just everything under the sun.

WALKER

And tonight is no different. The room fills with strangers and friends, black, brown, and white, young and old, drinking beers, laughing, and listening to music from that fantastic, ancient jukebox. I'm Jerad Walker.

SHEIR

Do you have a favorite D.C. dive you want to recommend for our series? Drop a note to metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is wamumetro.

SHEIR

And that's "Metro's Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, Emily Friedman, Sabri Ben-Achour and Jonathan Wilson along with reporter, Marc Adams. Our acting news director is Meymo Lyons. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Jessica Officer. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts" is from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, that's metroconnection.org. Just click on an individual story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook links, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show you can hear the whole thing by clicking the this week on "Metro Connection" link. To listen to our most recent episodes, just click the podcast link or find us on iTunes. We hope you can join us next week when we'll go moonlighting and meet Washingtonians who have a career in one field and a side gig or hobby in another. We'll hang out with a Capitol Hill powerbroker/restaurateur. We'll hear from a woman who recruits executives and rescues dogs and we'll meet people who've made their part-time passion into a fulltime job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

At some point, you're going to have to choose because you're not going to be able to sustain both once the hobby starts growing. It grows to a certain point and then you have to make the hard decision.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.