I am in Washington D.C. this week. For the past several years I’ve served on a national board with headquarters in the Nation’s Capitol. Consequently, I’ve gotten pretty skilled at negotiating the Red Line, Blue Line and Yellow Line routes on the Metro. I’m sorry; I can’t truthfully say that I’m skilled and knowledgeable. With the practice I’ve had, I should be fairly skilled at negotiating the Metro, but I’m still a novice when it comes to knowing which line goes where. In addition, finding the Metro Station is always a challenge for me. There is signage, but one needs to know exactly where to look to identify the entrance to the station. Sometimes that is a challenge for me.
Fortunately, this week I flew into Reagan National Airport. It was strictly by happenstance. Most often I fly to Baltimore, take a 30 to 45 minute bus ride to the Metro Station and then come into the City. Reagan is a lot more convenient than Baltimore, but generally the airline tickets are significantly higher. Did I mention that I’m frugal? I guard the agency’s dollar as carefully as I guard my own. I can sacrifice a little convenience to save fifty bucks. At the end of the day, I’ve got nothing but time on my hands.
The General (aka – my wife) would tell you my judgment is impaired. She’d never opt to add an extra forty-five minutes to an hour to one’s commute simply to save fifty dollars. She operates on the notion that time is money. Consequently, to waste time sitting at a bus stop in the cold of winter to subsequently be herded and transported like cattle in a cattle truck (oops – I mean bus) would never fly well with her. She simply wouldn’t do it.
Last night the news on the television caught my attention. I had no idea until then that the Governor of Maryland had declared a State of Emergency in the City of Baltimore. According to CNN, “Streets in Baltimore looked like a war zone early Tuesday after a night of riots, fires and heartbreak”.
Mayor Stephanie Blake expressed it like this, “Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who—in a very senseless way—are trying to tear down what so many have fought for.”
The headlines were disturbing, “Security beefed up after looting, fires engulf Baltimore”. The last stats I saw indicated 235 people had been arrested including 34 juveniles. “The Baltimore Police department/Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.”
The mayhem started just hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray’s family denounced the violence. The destruction in the city was so severe that schools were not open on Tuesday. That National Guard has been activated to assist with quelling the violence. In addition, 5,000 law enforcement officials have been requested from the mid-Atlantic region to offer assistance.
I’ve shared all of that to simply highlight the fact that the streets of Baltimore are not safe. In contrast, I opted to waive riding the Metro today and chose to walk the 2.37 miles to the meeting I was attending. Actually, I found the walk most enjoyable. Every time I come to Washington, I am mesmerized with the architecture. Today as I walked I thought about the contrast between my experience related to walking and what was taking place in Baltimore.
Somewhere in the process, I thought about an old country song entitled “The Streets of Baltimore.” I don’t remember the recording artist, but the lyrics are thought provoking:
“I sold the farm to take my woman where she longed to be We left our kin and all our friends back there in Tennessee I bought those one way tickets she had often begged me for And they took us to the streets of Baltimore
“Her heart was filled with laughter when she saw those city lights She said the prettiest place on earth is Baltimore at night Oh well a man feels proud to give his woman what she’s longing for And I kind of liked the streets of Baltimore
“Well I got myself a factory job I ran an old machine I bought a little cottage in a neighborhood serene Yet every night when I came home with every muscle sore She would drag me through the streets of Baltimore
The lyrics of the song remind me of the theme of the book, “Bright Lights, Big City” written by Jay McInerney about thirty years ago. “It is written about a character’s time spent caught up in, and notably escaping from, the mid-1980s New York City fast lane”. Bright Lights, Big City – I wonder how many people get caught up in the fast track only to find the lifestyle is self-destructive? I like the way that Calvin Miller expresses it, “Hate dresses well to please the buyer.”
Every time I come to Washington, I do an inordinate amount of walking. It’s not just that I’m frugal and find it less expensive to walk than ride the Metro; it has more to do with my desire to discover the pulse beat of the City. What better way to make that discovery than walk?
I am sure there are parts of Washington that would not be safe to walk, but I’ve had the good fortune not to find myself in any of those neighbors. I’ve never felt unsafe walking in Washington. That is true regardless of the time of day or night.
At the same time, I can’t say Washington is a friendly city. Whenever I walk, I make a point of verbally greeting every person that passes my way. It really isn’t that time consuming to say, “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” Seldom ever does anyone ever respond. They don’t even make eye contact. It is though they are walking in a trance and are oblivious to the fact that a response is warranted.
Until last night, I’ve never had the thought that walking in Washington could be dangerous. I was walking back to my hotel from dinner. There was a stretch of sidewalk where the lighting was less than adequate. Worse yet, unknowingly the sidewalk was uneven. If the General is reading this, “I was not reading or texting from my iPad.” Somehow the toe of my right shoe caught the elevated 2” ledge of the side walk and I toppled face forward. Actually at some point when I was propelling forward in a horizontal position, I intuitively positioned my hands in front of me to keep from smashing my face into the concrete. Did I mention it was not particularly good for the iPad? It flew from one of my hands and I could hear the crashing sound as it hit the sidewalk. I was shocked when I opened the leather cover to discover the screen was not shattered. However, the leather cover looks the worse for wear. It really badly skinned the leather case.
It is a little awkward, not to mention painful, to discover oneself prostrate on the sidewalk. Gratefully, I was virtually unharmed. My right knee looks a lot like the skinned leather case on my iPad. It too, still works. I am a lucky man.
All My Best!