Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Patricia Ghiglino works in what would be shallow left field of the proposed ballpark on Half Street in Southeast, in the yellow brick building that houses the Washington Sculpture Center.

It is so much of her 53-year-old life, as founder and executive director of this cavernous structure that sits next to the Metro bus parking lot. It is a life that has been put on hold in so many ways. It is a life of uncertainty and the unknown. It is a life of dread and fear and lawyers and a city that leaves her feeling cold.

She went to the Wilson Building late last month to testify before the politicos who are holding her life hostage.

She arrived early in the morning and waited until 10:30 at night to tell her story, to speak with conviction, to put a face on a life that is secondary to the cause of baseball.

She spoke her truth and made her case, even if she knew, in her heart, that it is all but a done deal, the maneuverings of Linda W. Cropp notwithstanding.

“To me, it was a learning process, to see the D.C. Council members at work, to see how many lies they tell,” Ms. Ghiglino said yesterday.

The feelings are raw along Half and O streets SE these days, in a gritty but bustling section of the city that resists the simple definition of blight.

It is not an easily definable place, although not for lack of effort among the notepad-carrying sleuths who have descended on the mixed-use corridor to put a there to the there.

It is a neighborhood with no name, just a past as hardscrabble as the present, lurking in the shadow of the Navy Yard and a Metro stop and the drug dealers who conduct their business on weekend nights under the cover of darkness along P Street.

Ms. Ghiglino is waiting on the second floor of the yellow brick building, in a dog-friendly office with a desk littered with the original plans of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, which included the sculpture center.

She is waiting to hear how the rest of her life is supposed to be. She is waiting for a city to reveal her fate, to tell her that it is going to be all right, to tell her something, anything.

“We don’t know anything,” she said. “All we know is what we read in the newspapers. We keep trying to reach out to everyone. But nothing. It is frustrating. The city tells us nothing.”

Ms. Ghiglino wakes up with the unknown loitering in her midst each day, always there tugging on her, planting scenarios in her head that deflate her spirit. She did not ask to take up with the unknown. It was imposed on her. She found out in the newspapers one day. There they were, the unknown and her, an arranged coupling.

“I don’t know what to say,” she said.

Ms. Ghiglino does not know what to say, because, really, there is nothing to say. She holds no sway around this inexorable force of ever-increasing numbers and political wrangling.

She is trying to run a business as well as possible, completing the details of an open house at the sculpture center next month, along with the January-to-June class schedule.

She has been swamped with inquiries from lawyers, each one determined to beat the city. It is too much. It is too sudden. She just wants her old life back. She just wants it all to go away. But it can’t. It won’t.

Ms. Ghiglino has a vision, too, the one that was useful to the city last summer. Hers is an arts district, as Half Street once was earmarked to be. This vision remains with her. Is there no place for an arts district in the city? She has put this question to the D.C. Council members.

She is waiting on that as well.

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