It’s 1:30 AM and I’m walking home to Columbia Heights from Dupont Circle. Close to the intersection of 17th and U, I pass by a group of twenty people huddling around an object I can’t see. Some of them are holding red plastic cups and I assume that there’s a keg and that this group of revelers come from a house party that’s spilled outside. Gutsy, I thought, to bring the keg outside.
As I walk by a woman calls out to me. “Hey, you want some toast?” she asks.
“Excuse me,” I say.
“You want some toast?” she asks again.
I finally see why the small crowd is here. There’s a table with four toasters and various spreads laid out–butter, jellies, jams, Nutella, and what would be my favorite, white chocolate peanut butter. Power cords hang loosely from out a third floor window connecting the toasters and a small pair of computer speakers attached to an iPod. One guy walks around with a kettle pouring out hot apple cider.
Most everyone there is like me, a stranger who just happened to be passing by. We discuss where we’ve been that night and whether if you fold toast in half it legally becomes a sandwich. There’s no consensus on this issue.
Someone talks me into a third piece of toast “for the road” before I resume my walk home. As I move on, I can’t help but think that this is about more than just toast. It’s a shot across the bow of a city culture and nightlife which is too rarely funky, spontaneous, and generous.
And I wouldn’t mind some imitators.