Independence Day

Apologies for the break since the last post. I was in DC for the weekend and busy, then when I returned I remembered that readjusting to the normal routine post-vacation is just as mentally significant as going on the vacation.

I also wanted my first post back to be about the experience of the fireworks on the Mall and a national birthday weekend in the capital. It took some time to gather my thoughts.

The first thing of note was that the weather was amazing. Driving up from North Carolina my companion and I went through the rain (including one stretch when it was so hard we pulled over), but this was one of those times when it has a cleansing quality. Washed clean of the usual humidity the air was fresh and everything green. The low-80s temperature and moderate to strong breeze made us cool at times.

We walked everywhere. Like any great big city DC has great neighborhoods. They spring up in front of you before you realize you’ve left the last one and yet when you’re in them you feel completely safe and surrounded with familiarity. But this familiarity disappears at times too, each person walking past you brings the unexpected and there are many more where she came from. And there are bad neighborhoods. And bad buildings or stretches of dilapidation even within good neighborhoods (perhaps Georgetown is the exception to this, an unsettling thing about it). It’s hard to walk down any alley without feeling a little insecure. Being a college student with a yet-to-be-determined life it’s hard not to be thrilled and disquieted each from the exposure to both the glorious affluence and the rough poverty.

So many things in DC are free – the zoo, the monuments, a walk in Georgetown. Many more are not. But the presence of public goods that are functional is a reassuring thing. It makes you feel like the people in charge of preserving them put their weapons down and figured out ways to make them work. Who knows if that really is the case? Probably not. Just as likely is that those responsible for maintaining them used the most draconian means to ensure their continued existence.

Finally: the fireworks. It’s always bothered me for many reasons when people criticize Washington, not the least of which is that Washington is beautiful! The Mall is a wonderful, weird, wide-open place where lots of things are happening all the time. Especially on the fourth when tens of thousands descend on all areas and make camp for hours to get good views. During the fireworks people are everywhere, and you have to be a cynic of the worst kind not to admire the joy so many people took from the night. There are so many unfamiliar faces of so many cultures and places and experiences, but so many of them are so happy and, since you’re there for the same reason as them, why aren’t you happy too?

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