Five years ago, I moved to the Washington, D.C., that is. Gentrification (likely) isn’t over, I imagine that more neighborhoods will transition, the cost of living will continue to rise, long-time residents will continue to be pushed out, but the D.C. I moved to is broadly the D.C. I know today. The city was very different as recently as ten years ago, but boy howdy has it changed since the 1990s.
S Street Rising is the memoir of journalist Ruben Castaneda. In it, he details his years as a crime reporter for the Washington Post at the time that Washington, D.C., was the murder capital of the nation. The homicide rate has been largely attributed to the rise in crack dealing and at the time he was assigned to cover this, Castaneda was, himself, completely addicted to crack. The book is a seriously unflinching portrayal what he did, why, and at what expense, to an extent that sometimes feels surreal.
Alongside his own story, he writes about a police detective (later homicide commander) named Lou Hennessy who came up on the wrong side of Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry – oh, and S St Rising does also cover the arrest of that same mayor for his own use of crack. Castaneda gives pages as well to Jim Dickerson, an Arkansas pastor who opened a church in the middle of one of the most dangerous streets in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, a church that maybe only survived the crack epidemic because of the protection of a crack kingpin.
Really, it’s a fascinating book. Especially as someone who really only knows D.C. now, it’s a long hard look at our very recent past.
Bingo Square: True Story