Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Defense of My City

 Last night I was sitting in the warm darkness of The Birchmere, a lovely music venue in Alexandria, at a tiny side table with a better view of the sound board than the stage. I always sit there, not wanting to take up a larger table that a group might need, forgetting every time that the light on the sound board will end up directly in my eyes (I don't even know if it's a sound board- it sounds like the right term though). Up on the stage was an earnest young barista/songwriter who spoke of songwriting in Paris. Just the day before I had been made to watch Midnight in Paris, a ninety-minute love letter to the inspiration that apparently bubbles up from the ground there. The place does have an impressive list of successes, and for one moment I wondered if it would work for me as well, even though I have never once had an urge to go to France and try out my two years of junior high French. The feeling only lasted for a moment though, because as I thought of iconic scenery in Paris, I thought of similar locations in Washington. I've been down narrow cobbled streets in Old Towne Alexandria (not recommended if you like your heels), I've seen boats cruise down the Potomac River, I've sat in the peace and quiet of Arlington Cemetery and walked across the bridge under giant military statues, I've seen artists paint on Roosevelt Island, driven past the dark and Gothic structure of Georgetown University, looked up at the National Cathedral and seen only stone and sky. There's Rodin sculptures in the gardens and DaVinci and VanGogh in the museums. There are bursts of flowers and shade under trees. Plus there's baseball in Nats Park. Nothing can beat that. People like to characterize DC as slimy pool of politicians with no culture. I don't have enough money to even know about those circles and I don't really care. What I remember is walking through a three block market of Tibetan culture the last time I went down to see a performance at the Shakespeare Theatre, reading my father's name on the Vietnam Memorial, knowing it belonged to someone else, admiring the First Ladies dresses on display, and hearing  three languages spoken in any two block distance. I think inspiration comes from leaving what's familiar and reorienting your head. Luckily for me, I don't have to go all the way to Paris.  

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