Goodbye, Washington

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience[s].” During my time in D.C. I’ve been trying to follow Eleanor’s advice and grab new experiences with both hands, and I have to say: I haven’t done half bad.

During my Future Forces in Food Event, Dr. Straus from Monsanto told the story of Joshua Bell, one of the world’s foremost violinists. His concerts sell out for every performance, he is revered as one of the great masters of our time, and he’s decided to do a little experiment.

Joshua Bell went to L’Enfant Plaza during rush hour one morning and played his $3.5 million violin for 43 minutes. During the 43 minutes he played, 1,000 people walked by on their morning commute. Thirty-five threw money in his open violin case—for that amount, he should have played less than one second at his typical hourly wage, and less than 75 people paused for a moment to listen as they walked by.

Joshua Bell was trying to point out that in our busy society we tend to ignore the small things that make life truly memorable. I guess you could say that we ignore Eleanor’s advice. Ignoring Mrs. Roosevelt is something I most certainly did not want to do during my stay in D.C. So here are some of the things I noticed during the past three months:


Street Musicians.
It seems only fitting to start with street musicians because that is what Joshua Bell was experimenting with. Each morning, there is a couple who plays at the top of the escalator at my metro stop for work. He plays the cello and she plays the violin; each morning as I ascend the escalator I listen for them. Every weekend without fail, three men sing do-wop songs at Metro Center on the platform between the orange and blue lines. Each week they wear matching outfits and entertain onlookers with their song and dance. Outside the Chinatown metro a young man in his mid-twenties plays makeshift drums. The Chinatown musician hits the bottom of buckets and garbage lids with sticks and creates music that is surprisingly beautiful.

Pearls and Band-Aids. Band-aids and pearls are high fashion in D.C.

Before I get any further, I should probably mention that I’m a people watcher; and people watching in D.C. is full of endless possibilities. That said, it shouldn’t sound too unusual that I notice the feminine footwear around me, or that every woman in the city has learned the two-shoe rule. The two shoe rule is a quick, albeit painful, lesson every woman here learns—wear a nice, but impractical, pair of shoes for work and bring a pair of flip-flops or tennis shoes for all the walking—yet even with these wise words of wisdom the desire to look good at the office sometimes overshadows logic.

I will admit I’ve fallen prey to the same foot mishaps as everyone else in my office and, at times, have had to sport my fair share of band-aids, but even then I hadn’t realized how widespread this fashion statement was among the business women of D.C….next time you’re in D.C., have a look, and don’t forget your box of band-aids.

I’ve heard mixed things about the metro; before I arrived people told me to be extremely cautious and that the metro was dangerous. While I’d never travel on it alone at night and I’m always aware of my surroundings, the D.C. metro is fantastic. Not only is it convenient but it’s also an amazing place for people watching. Everyone seems to ride Metro—from the people dressed up to go to work like myself to the family taking their summer vacation. I’ve grown surprisingly fond of the Metro and will miss it.

D.C. has beautiful architecture. Every time I walk by the Capitol or look at the memorials, I am awed by the beauty of the city. The city is filled with historical buildings adjacent to more modernist structures, oddly the contrast of these buildings enhances the majesty of the city rather than making it look mismatched. There is one area in Foggy Bottom that seems to highlight this more than any other. There is a row of old houses standing next to a new apartment building. From Pennsylvania Street you can see these two buildings next to each other; the apartment terrace has trees and a garden on top. I love walking by these buildings on my way home.

The architecture of historical buildings is the backdrop for so much of D.C. life. Often my GMA softball games would be on the National Mall with the George Washington Monument or Capitol as the background. Each Monday night when we went to “screen on the green,” where old movies are shown on the National Mall, I was amazed by how beautiful it is to watch a movie like “Arsenic and Old Lace” with the Capitol as the background to the video screen.

Politics. There’s something exciting about being at the epicenter of American political happenings. Just walking down the street or going out to eat can be an adventure; it isn’t uncommon to see politicians meandering through the city. Protesters demonstrate to fight for what they believe in, people stand on street corners supporting various grassroots campaigns, and the “water-cooler” discussion at work often seems to turn to politics. On a few occasions I even saw a motorcade drive by. Condoleezza Rice and various senators live at the Watergate Hotel above the plaza where I went grocery shopping, so each time the girls and I went, we kept our eyes open for one of these individuals.

This summer was better than I could ever have imagined, and I can honestly say that even though I’m excited to go back to school, I will truly miss everything about D.C. I’ve made some amazing friends here and learned so much at GMA. I also can’t help but think that if I hadn’t taken advantage of so many different activities and events during my stay, D.C. wouldn’t have the same meaning for me that it does now.

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