The City is a Monument

washington dc is a great city

Washington DC is a great city because it’s 61 square miles of roots & routes. I was there last week, losing myself in the roots and tangling myself in the routes. We all know what happened last week– the 2nd inauguration of the 1st black president on the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Poetic. Justice.

Since that’s the one you probably guessed first, I’ll start with it. Martin Luther King Jr. is obviously part of the root system that allowed Barack Obama to be President of the United States of America. But here’s the thing about roots & routes, and why I’m fascinated by the concept: One person’s route is someone else’s root.

We celebrate the legacy of MLK, and consider his work to be foundational. But for his contemporaries, MLK represented the future. He literally put folks in route to make this country better. The same will be true for BO. Now he’s leading the nation on our current path, hopefully a new path, but someday he will be history the way DC is history.

Washington DC wears the nation’s past like medals on an officer’s coat. The city is a monument. Even restaurants are museums, like Busboys and Poets or Eatonville, where waiters take the time to give you a history lesson on Zora Neale Hurston. Eatonville! What a perfect name for a restaurant, period. But when it’s also the name of ZNH’s hometown in Florida, that’s just the universe cracking a smile. When I saw the restaurant, I teared up and put my hand over my heart like actors do in those melodramatic movie scenes. Roots & Routes is the racially eclectic clientele of a minority owned business built to honor Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy.

And then, there’s the METRO. Operating since March 1976, the DC metro currently has 106.3 miles of track on which trains travel a max speed of 59 mph. It has 86 subway and surface stations and a rainbow of five lines: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The people, of course, are just as colorful.

For a rail fan like myself, the Metro is transcendent. What can I say? I’m transported. Where I’m going isn’t as important as the act of going. I slice through the seem of time and space. The sheer motion is entrancing. The one tragedy is that it doesn’t go on forever. It always eventually comes to a full stop.