As I type, thousands of committed prolife Americans are travelling to Washington to participate in the March for Life. In just a few hours, they will arrive in the capital, cramped and tired, and step into the stinging cold air that nonetheless must provide a nice change from the stagnant atmosphere of a charter bus. I somewhat miss the hassle and strain that I had to go through to get to D.C. for the march. The trip seemed like a pilgrimage, and the pain in travel added to the value of the mission.
Now, when I simply walk down Constitution Avenue after having gotten up, showered, and eaten breakfast, it seems a bit like cheating. I also miss the camaraderie of the trips. In undergrad., our Students for Life group would organize stays in the lounges of local colleges, and we would remain in D.C. for several days to see the sights as well as to participate in the march and in other prolife activities. Staying up all night in a Georgetown study lounge, discussing scholastic ethics or arguing whether Homer or Vergil gave his society the better epic are moments that I remember fondly.
Moreover, the city appeared more enchanting when I did not know it well. Of course, getting lost in the ‘hood back then because I did not know about the quadrant system (how many intersections at Fourth and H Streets are there?) make me appreciate my current acquaintance with Washington. Still, there is something marvellous about a new, mysterious town where the various places that you visit do not fit together to make an overall map but rather suggest an infinity of potential experiences.
I suppose that it is yet another example of how life is about trade offs. The new and alluring ceases to be mysterious once you live somewhere for long, but then you develop a relationship with a town, as it becomes an old friend. When I visited Paris as a sixteen year old, it was magical. When I returned to live and to study there, the magic wore off, but a new love developed. It became my town—no longer unknown, perhaps a bit less enchanting, but more loved and appreciated. Only by spending much time in a place can you begin to know all of its hidden charms that outsiders miss. My first impression of the Seine could not have been more romantic, and yet only when I lived in the City of Lights did I have the opportunity to enjoy the Parc des Buttes Chaumont on a windy day in the summer, the cozy hospitality of certain small Mediterranean cafés near Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or strolling through the Parc Monceau among April blooms on a Sunday afternoon after the liturgy. Contrast the emotional riches of the adolescent crush with the faithful marriage of many years. Each has its own delights, but the latter rests superior.
Anyway, I wish all of the marchers a safe trip and a fruitful time in Washington. I hope that the legions of teenagers and college students find the city wonderful for the hours or days that they experience it.
A few days ago, Drudge linked to a Daily Mail article that featured demographic maps of various American cities. Cartographer Eric Fischer created the maps, and you can see many more cities so depicted on his Flickr site, Race and Ethnicity. Here is the tribal dotting for Cincinnati:
Follow the link to the Flickr site where you can look at much larger images; the larger images show the ethnic composition of neighborhoods much better, as the smaller images only allow the dominant ethnicity to show in densely populated areas. Here is the original image.
On his site, Fischer states that he was inspired by Bill Rankin, who runs Radical Cartography. Rankin has a nice section on D.C. Check out his depiction of how chocolaty Chocolate City remains. Click on the site’s image to enlarge it for better viewing.
Looking at it, what strikes me most is how Rock Creek Park effectively divides the racial composition of the city. People casually say that Northwest (the northwest quadrant) is the nicer—whiter—part of town, but the dividing line is not North Capitol Street; it is more like Sixteenth Street and Rock Creek Park. I also find it amusing how Catholic University and Gallaudet are vanilla islands in N.E.
The dark and lovely neighborhood of Crestwood is the brown peninsula jutting westward from Sixteenth Street into Rock Creek Park. This “Gold Coast” area is the historic center of upper class, black Washington, and the houses are gorgeous. Indeed, it is the home turf of recently defeated Mayor Fenty. There is nothing at all like it in Cincinnati, where “nice houses” and “predominantly black neighborhood” only signify a formerly nice neighborhood that has become a slum with cool architecture—imagine Rome in the seventh century, where civilization remains only as a memory in stone. In contrast, Crestwood remains a real community rather than a decaying relic of a dispossessed past.
If you are a map geek—a cartographile, I assume—then enjoy Fischer’s and Rankin’s works.
For my Dad and me, today marks the end of our short trip to New England. This afternoon, I’ll take him to Reagan National to catch a flight back to Cincinnati.
As my father has not been in D.C. since Bush’s second inauguration, I hope to show him the new Capitol Visitors’ Center this morning. I think that visiting the Capitol is so much better and more organized with the new center. I just want the landscape work to be finished; the grounds have been a mess for nine years.