Following M St., D.C.
One summer, I spent time walking from the start of M St. in Northwest to its first "end" in Northeast.
Day One: A lost bouquet. Or: an neglected gift. Or: a perfect fit for an open space. Or: a treasure at the end of a crack in the concrete. On my first day on M St., I mostly encountered stuff abandoned long the edges of the road. I walked through Georgetown and saw a gum wrapper stuck to a bag of discarded Ruffles. I noticed plaques with historical facts and kicked empty Starbucks cups with my feet. I used a bathroom in the back of Dean and Deluca, and wondered how a place selling candy for ten dollars could keep their bathroom so gross. A part of me admired the mess I saw in a place so obsessed with its charm, but another part of me knew it was just my intent on finding that mess that led me to it in the first place.
Day One Con't: there was a hidden respite behind The Old Stone House: a former clock shop and car dealership. The oldest building in D.C. I didn't go into the house to see the architecture. I didn't see John Suter's clock. I walked in the garden, and took in the building's slant. I wondered at 1766 and its holdings. Colonial men and women building structures, creating devices for telling time, and milling about and around in wigs and dresses, curious about love and talking, instead, about the weather.
Day Two: to leave Georgetown is to leave preservation. Follow M St. into the city, and you will enter into the destruction and construction of a city that is revitalizing itself. There was a time when the old NPR building was being gutted, and the insides were pouring out; steel pipes, electrical wires, and concrete rubble. At the time, the sight was surprising, even stunning. Now, a turn, and you can catch it everywhere: splayed metal and broken brick. I peered behind this mesh and fence on M St. to see what was left: discarded water bottles and a gaping hole.
Day Two Con't: a demolition notice on this brick, this red, these windows.
Day Two Con't: it was just a week after Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church and shot and killed nine people. He said he "had to" commit the crime because "nobody else was brave enough." The day I walked up to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church on M St., I was not allowed in. Not without a member, the security guard said, ever since South Carolina. I started to walk away when a woman saw me outside, and said: "I'll take her. I'll show her around."
Day Three: this roof reminded me of that section in Highlights magazine where you'd have to identify the differences in two almost identical illustrations.
Day Three Con't: 415 M. St. NW. Not just another beautiful building under construction. Also a butcher's home, then a synagogue, and then a baptist church with the first woman preacher in the district. In its next iteration: apartment buildings.
Day Four: NOMA stands for north of Massachusetts. It is a neighborhood full of the new and the corporate: a Harris Teeter and a Starbucks. Office buildings along all sides of the street. A block away is walked past Sursum Corda, one of the first cooperative living spaces in the city, known for violent crime and open air drug markets in the 80's. Demolition and renovation were announced in 2007, but as of 2015, this was still true: "little of the redevelopment happened, although extensive demolition occurred."
Day Five: before I hit Gallaudet University and could walk no further, I spotted this graffiti on the side of a liquor store. I was not as excited by this as I was the tiny Tabernacle Baptist church right near it, but I could not capture it's particular peculiarity in a photo. Instead, I got this strange burst of color next door, and sometimes I wonder if it's still there or not, turning a head or two, capturing someone's attention.