Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Story I wrote about visiting my brother in dc a few years ago

I stepped out of the taxi and into the rain, relieved to be moving after a day either sitting around or in traffic.  I had actually wanted to get out a block earlier, as the car was stuck in traffic, but the driver, an African that was driving me crazy with a long rambling dialogue to his wife in a language consisting of some English words that he would only describe as an "African dialect" or "pidgin", said that it was a very violent neighborhood and I should stay in the car, so since it was only another block to my brother's house, I acquiesced.
  I took a moment to admire the solid brick of the house that somehow gives that feeling of lasting sturdiness and a classic sense of history.  It reminded me of an elaborate painting of a building on the wall of a co-op I had lived in as a student.  Every brick was painted with painstaking detail.

  brick and mortar
  a sure and even hand

  Those rowhouses were build between 1890 and 1905, and were not in danger of falling down.  The door was an old deadbolt that I opened with a square key and carefully locked behind me.  Depositing my excess baggage, I headed out rapidly again down the street, bound for Dupont circle.  Many of the streets in DC run at a 45 degree angle, which makes for some very bizarre intersections.  I walked warily for a few blocks, and failed to detect much danger other than the traffic.  The street was quiet, and although the Howard University area was not much to look at, it was a calm street and things gradually improved as I walked.  North of Dupont was clearly a high rent area, and to the right the land rose slightly and looked as if it got even pricier.  I headed south and enjoyed the hustle of an uban district, but continued west toward Georgetown University.  I hardly know what to expect, but after crossing the parkway and admiring the trees wet with rain, the sidewalk turned to brick and the houses were beautiful.

  walking out in the dew
  the trees
  the drops of rain

  The university buldings were phenomenal, many looking European in age.  The library was a new and bland structure, and I had little hope of getting in, not being a student, but was admitted after showing a picture identification.  To my surprise, they did have a number of books in Japanese, so I went to look them up.  They were on a quiet floor, students sitting around with laptops.  An old card catalog was near the wall, but may have been there just for nostalgia.  The stacks were those kind that move when a button is pushed as a space-saving technique.  I keep imaging the headlines: "Scholar crushed to death by moving bookshelf", but I figured them out and after much hassle photocopied a couple of stories.  By that time I was starving and headed out of there eating a ham sandwich.  Flocks of students hung around outside on their cellphones, looking well-heeled and preppie.  I passed therough the commercial district again, but elected to head back to Dupont, where I figured there would be an older crowd in the cafes.  The light was dimming by the time I got to a cafe.  I ordered my coffee.
  I sat and read the paper, watching the busy people walking by.

  people on their cellphones
  The walk back involved a gourmet grocery store and a sideways street filled with cars and a man stumbling around on burgundy wine.
  The next day I came upon a nice little Japanese import store full of those amazing ceramics.  They had some of the strange and wonderful Japanese candies.  A book called "A Zen Wave", on Zen and Basho, contained a quote saying essentially that meditation can bring one to where anything can bring the joy of enlightenment, perhaps the "divinely superfluous beauty" mentioned by Robinson Jeffers.  There was a book of essays by R.H. Blythe, a scholar who wrote what is still the most amazing set of books on haiku.  I walked out of there and considered the day a success, having seen many things not seen in my everyday small town existence.
  a car passes by
  a foot reaches out
  the curb drops
  the foot lands

  I think we went out and saw some show by Sterolab after that, some French group that did not have a whole lot going for them.  I continued to have to endure the taxi driver who would not get off his phoen.

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