Washington

On Sandy, and Other People

In the six years since I moved out to the East Coast from California, I had never experienced a storm like Sandy.

Well, experienced the build-up to a storm like Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy didn't hit Washington, DC as hard as it hit New York and other parts of the East Coast and the Caribbean, but it did do something extraordinary: it brought people together.  In personifying Hurricane Sandy, preparations were made to protect real people.

The DC Mayor's office issued a preemptive emergency warning which would provide the District with additional, federal assistance should it need it. The Mayor's Office also outlined which churches and community centers were serving as emergency shelters, and even specified which ones would accept your cat or dog! President Obama's federal response was also fantastic.

That sort of public administration - as Olivia would say, is "... the one that I want - ooh, ooh, ooh!"

Undesirable Elements

The US capitol is built on a swamp. As a capital city, it was a less desirable element than New York. The thinking was that if the U.S. capital was a swamp, the British wouldn't come down to the bastion of B.O. that was Washington, DC to bother the young nation, and would just let America alone.
Stay away from the swamp they (mostly) did. And ironically enough, 222 years later, most people here in the Washington, DC are are unbothered. Except when the power goes out. Which it does frequently after summer rain storms, and always in the non-monied environs. Whole sections of the power grid, with one swampy, sloppy storm, go dark.

Whole minimalls in Maryland, without power. Refrigerators full of rotting chicken, thawing shrimp. The "Open" signs of Mom & Pop stores dark, and closed.
The outskirts of D.C. are filled with people who, from the point of view of those with electric power (those who are powerful), are considered undesirable elements. These are the low-income blacks who got pushed out of the city because of gentrification, and Salvadorans and Brazilians who got pushed out of their countries by globalization.
They are now in an undesirable suburb, in an undesirable amount of heat and humidity.
As I sat to take it all in in front of Aspen Hill's Giant supermarket, I noticed one little boy's t-shirt read "Too Much Awesome". I told the mother how cute that was, and she laughed.
She commented, in the friendly twang of Central American Spanish, on the fact that although they have no ice or refrigeration in their house, it also wasn't as hot as predicted that day. It was predicted to be over 100 degrees, but the storm broke the humidity, and the air blew at a pleasant 85-90 degrees.
She took her son's little hand, and smiled. "So, we got the storm, but also got less heat," she mused.
"Well, maybe that's how God wanted it."

This American Us

The founding of America was, in essence, an emotional project = folks cut a clear of land uniquely dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that sense, the point of the U.S. (to an extent) is emotional freedom.

The Great Recession has cut into that a bit. As MSNBC's Joe Scarborough says, America needs a pep talk. This July 4th, Independence Day should feel independent. Baller America - I want you back!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebPsiEBXsHs]

Nighttime in Washington

During the nighttime in Washington, people ask, "Really now...really?"

Big thoughts stand on very small heels, or rest comfortably in leather loafers. Why isn't AID investing more in South Sudan? When are the Dems going to get it together? When is that deal going to come through? When is he going to commit? When is your next spinning class? What did your boss say? How is kundalini, anyway? How do you like your new apartment? How do you like your new Droid? 

What are you planting in your garden these days?
What is it that you do, exactly?
And, I'm sorry, where did we first meet, exactly? 

Nighttime in Washington is women adjusting their skinny jeans while their date asks for one more mojito. Calamari is the local currency, while the lone violinist on the corner of 22nd and Q whines a sorrowful tune to nobody.

Our Good Life

The ten year anniversary of September 11th is tomorrow. Although that means many things (most of which I'm not going to dive into here), let's remember something: Patriot Act or not, it's pretty good to live in America.

It’s not perfect, and it’s not always easy, but it's good.

Somewhere in America, an immigrant is opening up their own business. There is a child being born. A vegetarian has unlimited food options. Women can marry each other. Someone can wear overalls to church, just because they want to.

Here in Washington, DC, many people forget about the good life, but back home in LA - a city of immigrants - there is an unshakeable feeling that life there was a privilege. For people from war-torn or broken countries, simple afternoons filled with the scent of homemade meals, fresh laundry, and laughing children is the good life.

Tranquility might not make the 6 o’clock news, but it’s the tick-tock of the new American heartland.

So, as Kanye says, throw your hands up for the good life.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEKEjpTzB0Q]

Ramadan Mubarak

The Pentagon might be administering a War on Terror abroad, but here in the District of Columbia, some young residents are administering a different politik.

These aspiring diplomats, International Affairs graduate students, and Arabic-speaking Wisconsinites all know that it's Ramadan right now, and make their respect for it known.

They form their usual 2 am weekend lines in DuPont Cafe, a popular gyro shop in the DuPont circle area, but preface their orders with "Ramadan Mubarak." And instead of saying "thank you" after ordering, these young adults exclaim "Shukran. Shukran!" with fervish nods.

The Syrian shop owner smiles to himself, nods, and responds, "You're welcome."

A couple in the back discusses why everyone's spontaneously trying to speak Arabic . "It's Ramadan, their holy month," a twenty-something man explains to his girlfriend. "During Ramadan, you say 'Ramadan Mubarak', which basically means Happy Ramadan."

"Oh," the girlfriend muses. "Cool!"

Coffee or Tea?

You used to just get asked “paper or plastic.” Maybe if you were at Red Lobster, surf or turf. Now, your choice of hot beverage signifies your political affiliation. If you like Peet’s, you’re a Democrat. If you like Lipton, you’re a Republican.

This is too much to think about.

Wait, no it’s not. It’s just hilarious to think about.

The Culture Wars (ahem, Tea Baggers) have robbed us of our right to caffeinate as we please. It’s no longer just Obama vs. the Blue Dogs, or even Obama vs. Rush Limbaugh. It’s now…Starbucks vs. Lipton.

Is there no such thing as dual affiliation? Can't I be an Independent, and like Sumatra and Ceylon at the same time?

As if it wasn’t already enough that Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on the value of taxes, on health care, on how children learn and what they should be taught, on gun laws, on abortion laws, on the value of ethanol, on the value of tofu, on the future of the automobile industry, on the future of the banking industry, on the role of religion in politics, on the role of America in the Global South and on the role of America in the Global North, on whether or not purple states are more red than blue or more blue than red, we are now to argue over coffee vs. tea.

Immigration reform and health care reform are being voted upon - or against – on Capitol Hill this weekend. I’m going to head to the National Mall on Sunday to see what’s up.

Hey, while I’m there maybe I’ll step over some loose-leaf tea strewn about in an act of political rage.  I can just imagine the conversations that must have preceded it.

“You and your elitist liberal bullshit. Here, here’s some Lipton. Why don’t you try equality for a change?”

"Bitch, I drink Sanka!"