Lifestyle & Culture

Letter From Washington

June 28, 2015




IT’S FUNNY: HERE I AM with Washington at my doorstep, and all I want to do is hang inside my air-conditioned hotel room and write a blog. To be fair, I did venture out earlier to a nearby Starbucks for a hit of caffeine and a smattering of the local feel. Settling down among the well-heeled city folks, all on iPhones or iPads or computers, I leafed through a copy of Politico, a local newspaper dedicated to politics, natch. I read a lot about Hillary finally giving a speech, coming out with pithy things like, “I will do whatever it takes to keep America safe.” Wow, that is wild–whatever it takes! Imagine. It’s gonna be tough to top that. I guess a savvy Republican opponent could always say, “I’ll do whatever it takes, and then some, to keep America safe.”

When I first came to Washington as a college student in 1964 you could drive right by the White House, even pull over and park in front to snap some photos. Pennsylvania Avenue was just another street. Last night, as we drove around the city to see how it’s changed, we were somewhat appalled at the Kremlin-like feel of the area surrounding the Presidential Palace today. Gates and concrete barriers prevent cars from passing by the front or the back for several blocks, and parked police cars, their red roof lights blinking, hang out at every corner in all directions in the general vicinity. (How anyone would want to become president and live in that milieu is beyond me.)

What were once considered “bad” neighborhoods full of druggies and hoodlums and rapists have been transformed into spanking new “good” neighborhoods full of high-rise condos, trendy natural food markets, spiffy bistros, cool shops and of course affluent white people. I do wonder where all the former inhabitants have gone in search of new bad neighborhoods further out from the city’s center, and just how and who got them to leave.

Visually, things are awry right now in this usually beautiful city. The formerly grassy Mall looks like a giant’s sandbox as work proceeds on installing a new irrigation system underneath it. An enormous new museum currently under construction directly in the shadow of the Washington Monument is in a particularly hideous stage, although I’m betting that when it’s completed it will be just as hideous and even more enormous. And the lovely Capitol dome, that symbol of freedom we all know and love, is having something quite serious done to it and now resembles an adorable sixth-grader with head gear and a mouthful of braces.

The good news is that most of my best friends live here and I’ve been having a blast seeing them. For me D.C. truly is a great place to visit, but considering the daily afternoon thunderstorms almost phony in their intensity, like computer-generated special effects in an end-of-the-world movie, and the bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling from anywhere to everywhere else, and the recent influx of 150,000 yuppies who’ve arrived to join the government and devise new ways to spend our tax dollars, upping the housing costs to ridiculously unaffordable while they’re at it, I’m pretty sure I no longer have what it takes to live here.

–Andrea Rouda
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.

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