History Happens Here

Since I stopped commuting to downtown DC daily, something interesting has happened: I appreciate the city more. Every trip downtown I see something new and exciting happening — a cool new restaurant, a great neighborhood rising out of space that ten years ago was borderline depressing. Together, the sum of all Washington’s parts is a city vibrating with energy. It may be the Great Recession elsewhere, but for DC it’s boom times– which may say something unfortunate about mortgaging our futures in the name of ever bigger government, but it sure makes for an exciting and beautifully liveable city. I happened to have two dinners to go to this past weekend, both in DC, although in widely dispersed parts of the city. The first dinner took me by a park  I passed every day when I worked at the Post, McPherson Square. The usual Sunday scene of a few homeless men and their bundles spread out on the wood benches had transformed into what at first looked like a field sprouting with Gore-Tex mushrooms, but resolved into a village of domed pup-tents, crowded edge to edge three blocks from the White House. Occupy DC revolutionaries milled about, their fervor swirling around them like fog. There were signs all over, with slogans and whatnot, but my favorite was one that said: WE NEED TOOTHPASTE.  Throw in some deodorant while your at it.

The next night we were heading to Southeast, and that took us on Independence Avenue alongside the Tidal Basin. Suddenly we saw a huge field filled with the aftermath of what looked like another inauguration. There were police barricades and thousands of discarded cardboard boxes and stages and . . . what had just recently happened here?

And then we rolled past these four huge marble slabs, and as we passed by, the mountainous image of Martin Luther King Jr. emerged from one of the slabs, looking sternly down on us. Of course — it was the day of the dedication of the newest national memorial — a very big deal, rivaling in impact Lincoln’s little tribute just down the Mall. And the crowd was still streaming out of there . . . we’d missed the ceremony by an hour.

So two nights out in the nation’s capital, and two serendipitous brushes with history — the kind of things that will appear as iconic images for generations to come; a park populated with young people in need of toothpaste who believe that their beliefs alone have the power to change the world; a gathering to inaugurate a shrine to a man whose belief DID change the world, a shrine that had waited half a century for this one day of dedication.

And oh yeah, both dinners — one at a New Orleans place, one at a Greek place — were superb.

I’d love to live in Paris some day, but living in DC ain’t half bad.


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