The streets of Washington DC are clean and well appointed, as long as you do not stray too far from those areas under constant surveillance that are maintained as museums or alters. You will enjoy your time in the Nation’s Capital and perhaps enjoy the stoic fatal grandeur that permeates the city as you may understand that no line on the ground, no brick in a wall, no stupid public art has been created except after bitter and long-standing partisan battles and overspending and waste. DC is a city under an occupation of itself. And with any occupied city, there are zones that one may enter and frontiers one can cross although these are not as obvious of Berlin Walls(tm) or with warning signs in Cyrillic or Ice Stations or Check Point Charlies.
Along with the pricey restaurants and eateries, statues and the historical collections and various branches of the “nation’s attic,” the consulates, diplomatic bureaus and missions, there are the napping and screaming homeless clustered in dirty disarray, drug-addled, and shiftless wandering residents of a city that on the other side of the facade. These clusters are desperate and more often than not, entirely dangerous to travel, especially by the cloak of night, or at least the neighborhoods of certain reputation are.
The nameless beggars cluster here and there, a great many by the Museum of the American Postal Service as well as a few other locations within striking distance of the White House I have yet to understand the rationale behind other than this is a Freecountry, and we are free to ignore as we are appointed to protect and serve. Now that it is getting cold, many of them have those gray blankets agencies hand out that appear made of lint. United Way, maybe FEMA, perhaps These lint blankets are I guess disposable in the addled minds of the wretched denizens of the inner beltway since they are frequently seen in piles with other clothes, food bits, and excreta.
Most visitors do not need to be confronted with this darker side to capitalism and the American Dream when they visit the city and certainly I was not there on a humanitarian mission, and I have been there frequently enough by now not to be shocked or alarmed by the vagabond population. Also, I now enjoy a level of comfort heretofore unknown to me that has distanced me from my more activist personality traits should they ever have existed.
For this trip, I was positioned at a rather well-pointed hotel of some comfort and within walking distance of the White House. I opened my window blinds in the morning and across the street was yet another edifice that could be mistaken for yet another museum or perhaps a film set, an establishment location shot for the West Wing, Scandal, House of Cards, or whatever the television, film, or Hulu industry requires.
The walk to the restaurant was pleasant, the late autumn air has yet to be chilled to the degree I remember in childhood, thanks to global warming, climate change, El Nino, or a faulty memory of how bitter cold the November rain used to be. Each stately mansion had been long ago transformed into some bastion of power for countries I have not yet heard about and quite a few I have. The streets had a few people on it, just a smattering of for the most part well-dressed individuals. Nothing like the crowds of Gotham, the throngs of Boston, nor a complete Omahaian desolation where one could completely lay in the street after a given hour and not be run over. There was a certain amount of traffic and the trees shook in the slight wind, and the din of the city did not drown out these sounds.
I checked out a few eateries. Each one was more expensive than the other. I settled on a seafood spot, a clam or oyster house and without reading anything about it online, went in for a simple nosh and perhaps a martini or five. As the other establishments, the prices reflected the center of any Empire, and I settled on a simple drink and looked to an appetizer as my main course, knowing well that I would just fill up on bread anyway. The atmosphere for a Thursday is what many may expect. Busy, people looking forward to the weekend and it seemed that many consultant-types were having their Friday before jumping on planes and returning to where they actually lived. Upstairs was some private party, and indeed so much of DC is a private party. I enjoyed the table and kicked back but one rather complex drink that costs a lot more than most Americans earn in two hours, considering the wages in much of the Land of Opportunity.
I would like to enjoy Washington DC more, however, the time there was short, and I would have to make much more money to be in the sort of comfort afforded me for one night. The city is indeed cleft in two, but I guess that is nowhere different and today to be entirely expected as to be perhaps, unremarkable.