We descended the slopes of the Appalachians into the farm country of Virginia. Toward the home of friends, we passed through towns like Warrenton and Culpeper, steeped in charm and history and left to sit for 3 to 5 minutes like a big, soothing cuppa tea. The appeal of living in such beautiful country and being only a train ride from major metropolitan centers did not evade us. Amtrak pumps commuters and tourists through the arteries of the country like red and white blood cells, pulsing with each whistle stop and disembarkation and synchronizing the towns along the tracks in a closed system of business and pleasure. A stop is all a town needs really to benefit from the growth and health of the region around it. And like Rome or Paris all of these roads eventually will lead you to D.C. (Fortunately, the public transit system is pretty good because traffic is terrible.)
It matters not your political affiliation nor your professional goals, D.C. is a place meant to bring forth awe, a town of many faces. One need not have been a fan of ancient Rome to have marveled at its size and opulence. And yet what is striking isn’t so much the city itself as what it stands for, and the rest of that sentence will stay unwritten precisely because of what it stands for to different people.
At the home of friends, Jarvis and Monica we found rest, a shower, and friendly company. It’s always a pleasure to visit with these two. Our interactions are usually foot-based. Pacing the streets or exploring buildings, they showed us their world the way they see it while we caught up on each others’ lives and shared our hopes for the future. When we last saw them they were living in Seattle and there they had given us an awesome and intimate tour of the town. Here was no different. We walked around the White House, toured the Old Post Office, met the remnants of the D.C. occupy movement and visited the Smithsonian. The Mall is a great resource for people, considering most everything is free and within a short walk of everything else. We were entertained by a plastic-bin-thumping drummer, may or may not have walked past Mos Def on the sidewalk, and ate at two fantastic restaurants.
If you overlook the vast economic disparity, horrendous traffic, and not so subtle feeling of being surveilled it’s not a bad little town. It’s got something for everyone, art and science, iconic American memorials, a chance to rise in power and subvert those beneath you, beautiful parks and jogging paths, or opportunities to work for social justice and bring healing to the country. You’re lucky, as far as the latter goes, if you have friends doing just that. For us, D.C. will be a town of friends.