Dispatches from DC

Thursday morning bright and early we discovered an emergency alert – a pipe burst in NW DC and that caused a pressure drop in our part of town, meaning our water was no longer safe to drink. Boil Order! At least two days of boiling anything we wanted to drink, cook with, or water the cat with.

Last night, we were invited by another playgroup parent to join them at the Friday Evening Parade at Marine Corps Barracks Washington on the Hill. The Barracks sit right in the middle of Capitol Hill, 8th St SE. One minute you’re walking by storefronts and restaurants, the next you’re on the block with dress-uniform Marines and Naval officers saluting everyone who comes as a guest to the post.

The guests of honor were three Medal of Honor recipients. The only one I remember currently is Hershel “Woody” Williams, namesake of the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4).

The parade opened with the arrival of the President’s Own Marine Band, and then the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. Each was in fine form, but I think the Drum & Bugle Corps had the edge. They played both Sousa, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but I think the highlight of the night for me was both Scotland the Brave, and the Shosktakovich fanfare, complete with cannon fire, played to close the concert.

The President's Own
The President’s Own, photo by author

At the end of the night, the Marines brought the 1801 15-star/15-stripe flag down while the band played. A lone bugler sounded taps from the rampart at the top of the barracks, and the VIPs and citizens alike turned out along 8th Street near the old lamps. Privates in dress uniforms stood their posts along the corners and gates, and the oldest continuously occupied home in Washington remained, standing ever-faithful watch over our fair city. As if to exhale, after being a successful host, the breeze blew north off the river, cooling the August night as we walked on the bricks that have been in the ground as long as this city has been here on the banks of the Anacostia.

The Commandant's House
The House of the Commandants, photo by author.

Life in Washington is a mix of things. We are a city like any other, with poverty and affluence, peace and violence, development and decay. We are like much of the United States that way. This was a week of contrasts in a city of contrasts. A boil order in our house, and a perfectly-ordered performance, one of hundreds done over decades with traditions centuries old.

Complexity can be its own beauty, and this city has plenty of it. Not far from those barracks are neighborhoods where development isn’t attractive to business because it doesn’t remake enough of the neighborhood to satisfy economic needs. Violence can be rampant because opportunity is limited, and despite a near-blanket ban on guns, they’re everywhere.

The critiques of DC aren’t new to me. They come from people who see anything less than suburban or rural order and sparseness as dirty and undesirable.

There’s beauty in those neighborhoods too, and it is just as complex. Go-go and street music, community gardens amid the projects, street art with incredible depth and technique. This city’s life is complicated. The Evening Parade at the Barracks isn’t the city’s only standing ceremony, or even its longest. The parade may be larger than most, but social clubs like the Capital Checkers Club, and the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club have kept the pace and peace of our city.

This is a complicated place, without question, but when it is beautiful, it is beautiful beyond measure.

And it wouldn’t be DC if we weren’t as complicated and beautiful as the nation we are capital of.

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