I’m spending the semester in Washington, D.C. through a study abroad-type program called UCDC, and I’d be lying if I said the election wasn’t a big draw in getting me to apply for this term.
Politics! Drama! Excitement!
Uh … canvassing? Like, all the way in Virginia? I think I have plans that weekend …
But seriously, with everything that’s been in the news, is it chaos in the streets?
Well, in Washington right now, the leaves have started to change and fall to the ground, and the uneven brick sidewalks are scattered with papery decay the color of honeycrisp apples and plums. It is extraordinarily pretty, needless to say.
Washington is quiet, and when I walk around the city to a museum or cafe, I can hear my feet shuffling on the sidewalk, not in a post-apocalyptic way, maybe in like a pre-apocalyptic way, but perhaps it is too early to tell.
In this election season, Washington feels like it is going through changes — not the cool kind you get with a magic spider-bite, but more the kind grinding and inexorable puberty that gives you stretch marks while you’re still young. Washington has perhaps grown too much in too short of a time, and now doesn’t know what to do with itself, and there is certainly no going back.
Washington is slow, and the Californians are having none of it. We the students are tired and bleary-eyed, but searching for a little joy and places to eat past 10 p.m. We are the huddled masses, the coastal natives who didn’t bring a warm enough winter coat and collectively bemoan the 50 degree chill.
“(Washington) is a giant cemetery,” says a character in the 1985 play “Angels in America.” All those marble buildings, like coffins, with ideas laid to rest.
I know this quote because I signed up for a theater appreciation class instead of the one titled “Congress and Lobbying” or “The Supreme Court.” Did you know that there is a vibrant theater scene here, with dozens of productions firing up across the city on any given night? Washington is hip!
In my class, we talk about the politics of theater, or perhaps it is the theater of politics, and either way, the shows are wonderful. They’re a fascinating way to view a city that has changed and is changing — we see in them snapshots of neighborhoods shifting, identities forming and power evolving.
I say all this because there is not much else to report; the election frenzy, from what I have gathered, is not as abuzz in Washington as it appears on TV. And if it is, my nongovernmental internship certainly drowns it out with cubicilian solitude.
My friends at home coo, “What an interesting time to be in Washington!” And I suppose it is. It’s interesting to see the seasons turn and to anticipate change. D.C. itself is a spectacularly interesting city — it is a treasure trove hiding in plain sight. The arts here are beyond superb, and the city’s rich history is visible on every street corner.
But what’s it like to be in Washington, right now? Pretty average, I’d say. The absurdity of this election planted expectations in my mind that daily life here would be turned upside-down, but instead, it seems as if the world has decided to keep on spinning.
If anything wild happens in the next few days, you’ll all be the first to know.
Contact Sarah Goldwasser at [email protected].