The City of Sirens

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Although she is extremely alluring, I don’t mean to imply my friend Lee above is in any way a ‘siren’ in the Greek myth tradition.  Rather than leading you helplessly into danger…well, that’s entirely possible with her….but anyways, you’ll still be a much better off person knowing her.  What I do mean, though, is the constant sound of actual sirens started driving me a little nuts while I was in Washington D.C. for a week visiting Lee, an old friend who has a whole  fascinating story of her own.

It was a much more intense experience than my visit to NYC.  Maybe it was because I was staying pretty close to the heart of the city, the power epicenter of our planet, where the contradiction between that and glaring inequality and poverty along well-delineated racial lines makes you question all that is right and just in the world.  In NYC, it felt almost egalitarian to be able to walk anywhere in Manhattan, from the West to East Villages and all in between I had a sense that it was ‘open’.  But that’s one of its greatest illusions.  Manhattan’s in no way, shape, or form egalitarian.  You have to be extremely privileged to live there, at least in any way close to resembling a somewhat comfortable life.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

And so my first night in DC Lee and I, and a few hundred others, gathered downtown to watch a very strange event- crane dancing.  I hear it already!  I see the confused look on your face.  What is this dancing of which I speak?  Well, it’s this…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Two construction cranes moving in synchronization to music for about an hour into the sticky DC evening.  Word was some people were upset with its “celebration” of the gentrification process overtaking downtown.  Apparently, there was a community discussion the next day where the Canadian artist responsible for the event naively explained he never considered the implication because they don’t have the same social issues up north that exist in DC.  And many (white, affluent, hipster-types) thought it was a cool thing.  Contradiction, there you go, that’s DC.

Nevertheless, I’m still a tourist and I did tourist-y things.  (My trip isn’t this trip.)  First impressions are hard to shake, though, and it’s worth a mention.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Amongst the monoliths…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I spent two days in this place…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

The man behind Lincoln…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Dead drop?

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

A whole section of the mall was under construction…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I thought it was the reflecting pool until I walked around to the west side of the Monument…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

My friend Sarah works near the Capitol building and we planned to meet for lunch one day.  (By the way, did you know the dome is made of cast iron?)  Wasn’t surprised to see a demonstration on the way…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I was interviewed by this girl even though I didn’t know very much about the Falun Gong and felt the issue hasn’t been well represented in the popular media.  Maybe one of the problems?  But also commented on their ability to have the demonstration at the self-proclaimed center of global free speech.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Got lunch in one of the Senate buildings after checking out a few offices.  It was surprisingly affordable and good, but we preferred to eat outside and away from all the summer interns and their ill-fitting business suits.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

By the time we were done the march was about to start…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I mentioned I spent two days in the National Portrait Gallery, but I had to stop by some other museums, too.

Here’s the National Museum of Ancient Donuts…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

The Smithsonian’s were zoos.  Went into the Natural History Museum and couldn’t get out soon enough.  Just way too many people.

This piece (didn’t get the name of the artist)  in the Freer and Sackler Galleries was pretty impressive though…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Despite this message put up within days of my visit….

IMG_1367

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

…the Museum of African Art was really good.   One of the best I visited actually.  No photos allowed though, because of Mr. Rap…..er,..Cosby’s loaners.

Moving on, it was hard for me not to develop a fascination with the segway tours I saw everywhere…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

See ’em?  You thought I was joking, huh.

One thing I wasn’t counting on when I came to DC was the humidity and heat.  It was pretty oppressive, and made me finally appreciate the “dry” heat the southwest is known for.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

This cop had the unfortunate task of telling people to take their feet out of the WWII Memorial’s water.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

The Metro reminded me of Space Mountain at Disneyland…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I did manage to do a couple unplanned and not-so-tourist-y things.

The first was kayaking on the Anacostia River.  Met up with Lee and a couple of her work colleagues and hopped a short Metro ride to the ballpark, which sits right on the river.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

The Anacostia Watershed Society offers free use of their equipment on “paddle nights” every Thursday at a revolving set of locations.  It was nice to get out on the water.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Proof I can’t be on Instagram- can’t even take a decent selfie.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

At one point we heard and saw something in the distance and this ended up flying right over our heads.  It was pretty cool…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

The other thing was Lee decided to organize an impromptu tiny house concert.  It was a nice little intimate affair and besides myself included a cellist who once played with the Boston Symphony and a banjoist I met at a get together on a previous night in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.  Thank goodness they were there because it’d been awhile since I performed and I was happy to share some playing time with other musicians.  It was a summer night for the books for sure.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Yeah, so Lee is kind of a big deal in the DC  tiny house scene.  She co-founded a community in the city that gained quite a bit of attention over the years, even garnering solicitations from the Discovery Channel for a reality series.  They were told they could be the “east coast Melrose Place”.  As enticing as that was, Lee thought it’d be better to decline.

It was my first time seeing her house in person and I have to say I’d have no problem living in it.  I’m not sure how families can do it, or even couples, but single people can no doubt live comfortably in a house of this size.  My visit coincided with Lee finally moving in permanently as she’d recently relocated the house to a new lot.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

I really adore Lee.  I met her in grad school and have been following her tiny house dream since it began.  And it’s been a long and challenging process for her, but knowing Lee is knowing someone who’s unafraid of confronting tough situations head-on.  It’s one of the reasons I admire her so much.

Finally, on a random side note, Lee had another friend from grad school visiting DC.  Matt teaches geography at Humboldt State and was in town on a month-long fellowship at the Wilson Center.  Turns out he organized the conference my buddy presented at in May!  Small world.  It was great to hang out and see some of the city with him.

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

But back to the sirens…

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2015 Marc Allen Mintz

They were most often ambulances.  And they were constant.  On the morning before I left I saw (and heard) a bunch of motorcycle cops driving by the apartment where I was staying.  I realized it was an official motorcade and ran to get my camera.  Looked like the “beast” but there weren’t any flags on it so I know it wasn’t the POTUS.  Tons of black SUVs behind it, though.

Yeah, the sirens.  They’re the city’s cries at its own contradictions as a place where ultimate privilege and abject poverty exist, for now, side by side in some weird ongoing state of misguided celebratory Capitol city apotheosis.

DC doesn’t seem like a place to where people want to move, though.  At least I hope not.  It’s more of a place to chase ambition, and commonly by any means necessary.  Maybe it’s not unlike NYC in that regard.  But is it more or less hypocritical?  I can’t decide.  Sometimes I appreciate unapologetic and in-your-face contradiction.  But then again, systematic division of class and race is abhorrent wherever it occurs, but especially when hidden within a kaleidoscope of often out-of-reach opportunity.

Anyway, as nice as it was to visit my friends Lee and Sarah, and I’m happy they’ve found their places here for the time being and so thankful for their hospitality, I was happy to start heading west again where I know I really belong.

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6 responses to “The City of Sirens

  1. Nice writing/photos. What city is next?

  2. As always, thanks for the tour! I live about an hour southeast of DC in Leonardtown, Maryland. I don’t make it to DC often cuz it feels overwhelming, but I loved seeing it through you lens. Also, I had never heard of Falun Gong–and was both shocked that I hadn’t and horrified to read about it. Just on wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Falun_Gong), but I sure wish those folks good luck and am glad you put their pictures up. Oh and Lee is indeed lovely as is her tiny home! What’s next on my vicarious trip? 🙂

  3. Thanks y’all. I’ve had enough big city stuff for now. Looking at smaller midwest cities for the next few stops 🙂

  4. What a great post- thank you! Love your style of writing. : )

  5. Pingback: The State of Jefferson | my american myth

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