Before I came to Washington D.C. I knew I would be encountering the unexpected. I knew I would see the powerful and the powerless, the wealthy and the impoverished, the anonymous and the famous dwelling side-by-side, but living worlds apart.
I still wasn't prepared for what I have not only seen, but heard, felt, and engaged in during my first week as a participant in the Washington Journalism Center program.
Washington D.C. assaults the senses. It is a place of great opportunity, variety and tragedy. A couple of days ago a group of us (people in the WJC program and the American Studies Program) decided to go ice skating. I don't know what possessed us, but we chose to walk.
Maybe it was the crisp evening air, or a desire to save money, that drew us away from the dimly lit tunnels of the metro system and out into the streets.
As we walked west on D street into the Northwest quadrant of the city, residential neighborhood gave way to mammoth federal and commercial buildings. One of the strange things about Washington D.C. is that there are very few "skyscrapers", in the New York City sense of the word. Very few buildings in the capital city rise above ten floors, and most of them were built in an era of architecture when horizontal expansion was more common than vertical.
Just before we crossed Interstate 395, I noticed a long line of predominantly African American women, of all ages, stretching along side the road. At first I thought they might be lined up for a bus stop but then I realized the line was too long. Then I thought maybe a restaurant or a concert? No they were much to somber. Then I saw the sign "John L. Young Center for the Homeless." They were waiting for the doors to open.
We passed by quickly, laughing and talking, our minds on getting to the ice rink.
Two blocks beyond we passed the stately pillared front of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Thirty minutes, and nine dollars later I was skating lazy circles around the outdoor ice rink in the National Gallery of Arts Sculpture Garden.
The moon was high, full, and bright, friends were plentiful and the night young. The National Archives Records and Administration building provided a majestic backdrop.