Since January, 2003
            
 (a random before-and-after moment)
March 31, 2007
January 16, 2011
Cushing at L, Looking North (see more)

The news seems to be well known at this point, but I will still note here officially that Bill Walsh, known colloquially in these parts as Mr. JDLand, died on Wednesday of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a rotten cancer of the bile ducts and liver made more rotten by the frequency with which it isn't found until it has spread.
I won't run down his biography here, especially since the fabulous Washington Post obituary does a great job sketching the portrait of the "rock star" of copy editors. And my grief-soaked Facebook farewell gives a hint of the heartbreak I am not only now facing, but have lived with for the past nine months, knowing that it was highly unlikely this cancer was going to be beat.
But I wanted to ruminate for a moment or two about the part Bill played in JDLand, and not just as the chauffeur on that fateful day in January 2003 when I took the series of photos that really started this adventure.
When Bill moved to this area from Phoenix in 1989, he lived in Alexandria at first, but with a commute to the Washington Times building on New York Avenue, NE, he was soon drawn to Capitol Hill, and found a place not far from Eastern Market. The Hill of the 1990s, of course, had a very different feel than today, as did the entire city, but he fell in love with the walkability, and even the slight edginess of the time.
While I had been born on the Hill, my family had left the area when I was a toddler and when we came back we settled in Chevy Chase, so while I very much considered myself a Washington-area native, I was pretty firmly ensconced in the world of Upper Northwest, Bethesda, and points west and north. Sure, I had spent more than my fair share of time at the original 9:30 Club on F Street, drank yards of beer at the old Tiber Creek Pub (where Bistro Bis now resides), served two summers as a Hill intern, worked at a couple of jobs near 16th and K, and wasn't a-feered of going downtown in the late 1980s and early 1990s as many of my cohorts were, but it still just really wasn't part of my orbit.
Until in April 1993, when I met a guy living on Capitol Hill.
By 1995, we had bought our house on the south side of the Hill, much to the chagrin of many people who thought we were crazy to buy in such an "unsafe" place, a feeling that intensified for many who came to our housewarming party via the 6th Street exit off the freeway who were not happy to be greeted by the boarded up shells of the old Ellen Wilson Dwellings and the only slightly less foreboding, not-yet-boarded up Capper apartment buildings.
But we loved it. We loved walking the neighborhood for hours. We loved Eastern Market. We loved walking to the Hawk n Dove or the Tune Inn or La Lomida Dos. We loved going to open houses just to look. We loved the House and Garden Tour. We loved being 10 minutes from National Airport. We loved seeing the Capitol just as part of the neighborhood landscape.
And we loved watching it change, as it really began to in the early 2000s. Somewhere on his hard drive is actually a running list, going back to well before we arrived, of which businesses occupied which addresses on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Barracks Row. He loved telling people about how 8th Street had transformed from "our little slice of Queens" to the restaurant row it is today.
Then I extended the boundaries of our interest when I started hearing about the various plans to transform the blocks south of the freeway, an area we rarely ventured into and in fact would sometimes jokingly subreference Bonfire of the Vanities when telling people how to get back to the freeway and "safety": DON'T GO UNDER THE OVERPASS.
When I get asked to tell the story of how I began to follow the neighborhood, I almost always mention how Bill and I used to stand on 3rd Street and look southward under the freeway to catch a glimpse of the Anacostia River, and how we used to say to each other, "Wouldn't it be great if someday we could walk down there from here and then along the river?" (which was usually followed by loud ironic guffaws) And then I was off on my one great hobby, watching Near Capitol Ballpark River Yards grow from nothing to what it is today.
Of course, through all of this, the rest of DC was changing too, and we became even more intensely in love with our city and what it offered. We ate at as many of the city's restaurants as we could. He began biking to and from work at the Post. We would walk to Caps games at the Verizon Center and then home. We Bikeshared. We Car to Go'ed. We Ubered. We waited for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to be extended. We walked to Nats games on a whim. We rode the H Street Streetcar on the first day. We reveled in referring to ourselves derisively as urban hipsters.
Much of our daily running messaging commentary to each other was news of what we had seen and heard--did you hear Hank's is opening on the Hill? The weird florist at 8th and E is gone! Matchbox is almost open! Wait, let me guess, you want to go to Morini again.
And in 2015, when he began a walking regime to combat a bit of fatigue that was probably a missed early sign of his cancer, his route covered all the bases--down 8th Street to the freeway, back up to Pennsylvania Avenue, down New Jersey under the freeway, over to 1st Street, down to the ballpark, along the river, and home. And I received bulletins all along the way of whatever he saw that was new. He became the first and only official JDLand stringer.
We just loved living here. Every minute of it.
A few weeks ago, I felt he was stable enough to allow me a little time to go take some Hood pics for the first time in a few months. It was a beautiful day, I was doing what I have loved doing for more than a decade now, and was on autopilot--until I looked at the large as-yet unleased corner retail space in one of the new buildings. And then I couldn't breathe. Because I knew it would be a restaurant, and would be a restaurant that he would never know about. That we would never eat at.
When my brother brought me home to the Hill after leaving the hospice center for the final time (I can't even believe Bill died in Arlington and not DC), we came across the 14th Street Bridge. I caught sight of the Wharf construction, and burst into tears.
We may not have been activists, or preservationists, or even particularly involved in the culture of the Hill and surroundings, but our neighborhood(s) infused every part of our days. These streets and buildings and businesses and history united us as much as our life at the Post, our love of travel, our cats, and our expert-level pop-culture referencing.
Now I just have to figure out how on earth to watch it all alone.
I will continue to pop in and out in the coming weeks, because he would not be pleased if JDLand was collateral damage in all of this, but it will take a long while before I return to full steam.
However, having moved through the aftermath of my mother's heartbreaking death three years ago, I do know that time heals, and what feel like machete strikes to my chest today will eventually be wistful pangs. There will come a time that roaming these streets will not smack me with what he is missing, but remind me of everything we shared and enjoyed so very much.
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Chris says: (3/17/17 2:00 PM)
??


Chris says: (3/17/17 2:01 PM)
Oh no, my previous comment didn't work! Was trying to send my love.


walt says: (3/17/17 2:45 PM)
JD,
Thank you so much for sharing such a personal side that I never knew about. You and Bill have touched so many lives and made a huge difference in this neighborhood. Do you realize that for many people (including me), JDLand helped make the decision to move to the "Near Capitol Ballpark River Yards", so that means that you and Bill were actually formative influences on this hood. I literally would not have bought here if this site did not exist. I didn't know how to access all the information you provide, and without it and without your enthusiasm for the area, I would not have felt safe buying here. So I guess that means that Bill lives on through the people who live, work, and play here.
Thanks for sharing and best to you!


CJBabyDaddy says: (3/17/17 3:13 PM)
You won't be watching it alone. Because of you, so many of us will be watching, too.



JH says: (3/17/17 4:21 PM)
JD--your beautiful tribute captures the essence of true love and finding joy and camaraderie in the day to day of life. My deepest condolences to you in this amazingly difficult time. All of JDLand feels a small piece of your immense loss right now.


DanintheDC says: (3/17/17 4:37 PM)
What a beautiful tribute to "Mr. JDLand." Let us know if you need a walking buddy, or friends at the River's edge.


Daedam says: (3/17/17 5:06 PM)
JD, I'd like to echo what others have said. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I, too, learned about the transformation of the neighborhood via JDLand, and I wouldn't have moved to NCBRY in 2009 and later bought here if it weren't for your coverage. I'm truly grateful for the work you and Bill put into this site and for the love of neighborhood and city that you've shared with us. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.


gee says: (3/17/17 5:19 PM)
What a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing with us I am sorry that I never met your husband, although he would never have approved of my use of the semi-colon.


LindaW says: (3/17/17 6:37 PM)
I am very sorry to hear of Bill's passing. You and your family are in my thoughts.


JAllen says: (3/17/17 7:43 PM)
I am very saddened to hear about your loss. May you find the strength and love you need during this difficult time.
Jim


dbt says: (3/18/17 7:11 AM)
Thank you for sharing your and the Post's moving tributes to your husband. As perhaps your only reader who once delivered newspapers for the Phoenix Gazette (Bill's first employer), I feel somehow connected to him, though I never had the opportunity to meet him. In a way, I feel like that's what your whole enterprise with this website does, helping people feel connected in ways they otherwise might not. I first heard about your site more than a decade ago at a DOT employee meeting about our new building that was about to start construction, and have been following you ever since. Though I live far away in the outer suburbs, JDLand has made me feel like a part of the neighborhood as well, rather than it being a place that I simply pop into after a long commute and escape at the end of the work day. Thanks for everything you do to bring people together, and I hope you'll have the strength and support that you need during these difficult times.


printz64 says: (3/18/17 8:56 AM)
What a beautiful tribute, I feel as though you have described my same time frame and parallel universe living on the Hill since 1996. I send you virtual hugs, many to sustain you as you are so right, time will help heal your pain, nut for now know your community sends you lots of love! ?


Maelstrom says: (3/18/17 9:51 AM)
JD -

My condolences and sympathy in this difficult time. Even though I'm no longer a DCer, I pop in at least twice a year and I always check up on how the near SE is doing. When I can't visit, JDLand is where I go to see the updates on the area where I got so attached to watching construction and development. I appreciate everything both of you have done for my old neighborhood.


F says: (3/19/17 9:57 AM)
JD, My deepest condolensces for your loss and sincere thanks for sharing your personal story and experience with all of us. You've been an inspiration to many of us in near Southeast and have singlehandedly been a force behind rebuilding this part of the city, much more than you know. I've directed many people towards JDLand over the years and they've often commented how little they knew about the neighborhood until they came here. The city and its residents owe you and Mr. JDLand so much. Hopefully the proper recognition will follow.



mmsq2 says: (3/19/17 3:16 PM)
My condolences for your loss. What a beautiful tribute. I enjoy reading your articles and viewing the changes through the lens of personal stories and walks.


mikebill85 says: (3/20/17 5:06 AM)
I registered for an account after all these years of being a faithful, albeit silent-in-the-background reader. I wanted to extend my condolences as you mourn Bill's passing. Your reflection was incredibly moving, and, as a loyal reader since around 2005 when I was in college, I want you to know how much what you and Bill have shared has meant to me. I'm from Anacostia originally and, after leaving home for college in 2003 (off to Iowa), I found your site to be my direct link to the City, a kind of way to keep taking DC's pulse. And even now, all these years later, after living in New Orleans and now being forward deployed to the Pacific as a member of the Armed Forces, I find your ability to capture DC's evolution to be a significant part of my connection to home. So I guess I want to thank you for what you and Bill have done, extend my condolences, and convey the hope that this journey you've started with Bill eventually bring you comfort and joy as you reflect on all you've witnessed thus far and all that awaits in the future. As we say in my line of work, "Here's a toast."


FedInExile says: (3/20/17 6:37 AM)
JD -
What a moving tribute to your beloved Mr. JDLand. Your courage in confiding with us during your most difficult loss is admirable, but not a surprise to this longtime JDLander. If there is anything that we might do to help lighten your sorrow or to ease your passage through these painful days (weeks, months, years)... of missing Bill and everything you shared, please let us know.

Your nuanced and very personal writing style makes me feel that we have been friends for all the time I've enjoyed the ever-changing world of JDLand. It's a bit strange to enjoy your warmth and openness (considering we've never met), but such is the gift that you've given us in this wonderful world you've created in these (internet) pages over the years. My condolences to you and your family - I pray that you will always carry with you the best wishes of everyone in the JDLand family; please know that you're never alone, no matter how heavy your heart may become. Your talent and energy have made this site a marvelous resource and just simply good reading throughout the years. I truly admire you, JD; never more than right now.


G Street says: (3/20/17 9:50 AM)
This is lovely.


MalS says: (3/20/17 10:21 AM)
Dear JD - this is so beautiful and it is a wonderful tribute to Mr. JDLand. I am so glad (not surprised but very glad) to know how instrumental he was in the JDLand story. As others have mentioned, you and he have already created a vital legacy in the tracing of the neighborhood's amazing progress; we JDLanders are all lucky to be part of it.

I am really hoping Bill would forgive the semicolon in this instance.


NatsHood says: (3/20/17 4:12 PM)
JD- Thanks for sharing that beautiful tribute of Bill. I remember when you shared your mom’s health issues 3 years ago, I felt as if my mom was ill. I was really sad to hear she passed when you posted it on your website. A few months later, my mom suddenly passed away and I suddenly realized just how life changing losing your mom is. One thing that I do know is that time does heal and while I still miss my mom’s physical presence, I feel she is watching over me. I know how the grief can take the breath right out of you (literally) so just try to remember that Bill is still with you and he will always be part of you. Time will heal this wound too. Hang in there and I send many hugs your way.


Jaybird says: (3/20/17 5:03 PM)
Thoughts and prayers JD.


jdc says: (3/20/17 9:05 PM)
Everyone has written such great comments, and your piece(s) have been so moving JD, that I am at a loss for words. Really, all I can say is how deeply saddened I am at the loss of Mr. JDLand and how I hope we can all bring you a measure of solace.


msanabria says: (3/20/17 9:29 PM)
Thank you for sharing. This is such a beautiful tribute and your stories remind me of me and my husband and our love for taking long walks around the Hill. After our walks we often come home and search your blog with excitement to find out what's opening where and when. I hope that you are finding peace and comfort in these difficult days; sending love and hugs from the Hill <3


JNB says: (3/21/17 10:34 AM)
Wanted to send my thoughts and prayers from our family. So sorry to hear about your loss.


JD says: (3/21/17 8:36 PM)
Thanks, everybody. I am reading, if not replying individually. I truly appreciate all the kind words and thoughts.


TWalt says: (3/27/17 1:59 PM)
My sincere condolences, sorry to hear about your loss. Your tribute to your husband was beautiful. I hope you keep remembering the good times you had with him.

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