Day 1453 – City as Contradiction
Travlin’ seems to be my middle name. Just got back to The Bronx after driving up from DC after driving down to DC from Philly after driving to Philly from The Bronx after flying from Boise to The Bronx. Whew.
Here’s a slide show!
Washington DC is, on one level, one giant contradiction. As the capital of the United States it was created by the constitution as a separate district to house the three branches of government. However the District has no representation in the government and has floundered in a social limbo nearly since its creation. My paltry knowledge of America’s early history hobbles me in this area so i’m forced to simply observe what i currently perceive; namely that large areas of DC became almost a kind of dumping ground for disenfranchised people from across the south.
Consequently DC, in an accurate depiction of how “separate but equal” fails, has developed a split personality. Much is old-school affluent and steeped in history, much is steeped in history of another kind. Since until 1961 The District had no voice in government and existed outside the realm of the slowly evolving union all around it. I suppose the theory was to set up a non-state (The District is by no means a city-state as The Vatican) that would be populated by a mostly rotating crop of landed, smart, government-oriented men who would execute the business of State but not fall into the work-a-day rut one might encounter in, say, Richmond or even Annapolis. The District was to be one big office where nobody would want to be longer than necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if the thinking assumed nobody would actually live there longer than their terms in office. Back then operating the government was less of a career and more a calling, drawing young-ish (again, landed, smart) men to come add their philosophies to the crucible and see what new alloy could be concocted.
I can only assume they got the land, mostly marsh averging 12 feet above sea level at the higher points, for very little coin. On an earlier trip the weather was beyond beastly…. over 90 degrees with 100% humidity. This most recent trip was nothing short of spectacular, even a bit too cold in fact. Aside from the dozens of vapor trails from all the commercial jet going up and down the coast the sky was a flawless blue. I ducked in to some of the excellent galleries, but the weather kept drawing me outside.
Sitting back in the bronx the few observations and questions that remain are: who produced the sculpture of FDR and his dog in the FDR monument? I’ve never seen such a bizarre bronze object. Jefferson’s monument remains my favorite. I cannot walk the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial and not tear up despite the fact i don’t know anybody who died there; it’s simply a magnificent memorial. All museums should be free.