So, what happened to May?
Over the last two years I've settled into a winning pattern for the end of the academic year: get my grading done as quickly as possible and get the hell out of Nashville. A week or so in Washington, DC is enough to flush all memories of the year right out of my system and ensure a productive summer.
This summer has been a little more productive than most. Christy and I came up to DC after the semester ended to repair and sell the house we held onto when we moved down to Nashville; we're still here now. A month and then some of home repair doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging, especially since I haven't bought any comics, thus depriving this blog of most of what passes for its content.
Well, that's not entirely true: there were a couple of issues of 52, a couple of summer blockbusters, the last book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist, and a great David B. story in a volume of Mome that otherwise offers a depressing index of the monotony of most indie comics. (What grim vigilantes and dead girlfriends in refrigerators are to mainstream American comics, emotionally stunted loners and foulmouthed funny-animal characters flopping ironically out of panel are to independent ones.) I wasn't hurting for lack of material, just a lack of energy. The first week I even wrote up a little post to explain why I wouldn't be posting for a while; but what's the point of blogging about why you can't be bothered to update your blog?
There's nothing like stepping away from blogging for a few weeks to make you realize how unnecessary it all is. If you don't genuinely care about the material, you're probably not going to say anything that a dozen other irate and/or delighted fanboys haven't already said. (This probably explains why my blogging hiatus so perfectly matches the delay in Seven Soldiers, almost my last tether to monthly comics.) The world doesn't need another ambivalent review of X3.
The world probably doesn't need my thoughts on my working vacation, either, but that's what I care about right now. Not the work or the vacation, actually, but the city that's playing host to both. I grew up in the DC area, and most of my travel over the last three years has taken me back here for family holidays, friends' weddings, academic conferences, or home improvements. They hardly qualify as vacations, but somehow they always leave me cleansed and recharged as if I've been visiting a completely new city.
It wasn't until now, on the last of these trips, that I realized I have been.
We usually stay with Christy's parents, who live in a quiet residential neighborhood that's less than ten minutes' walk from an urban shopping district and a Metro station on the Red Line, which runs between affluent Montgomery County, Maryland and affluent Northwest DC. The house we're working on, the house we used to live in, is a substantially longer walk from a Metro station on the Green Line, which runs from less affluent Prince George's County, Maryland through far less affluent parts of Northwest, parts that aren't nearly as gentrified as the Red Line's Friendship Heights/Cleveland Park/Dupont Circle axis. Staying over here on the Red Line I can catch a movie at the Uptown, dinner in Dupont Circle, and drinks in Adams Morgan all without opening a car door. Riding a different line puts me in a different Washington.
Yes, the lines do connect eventually, but the system only has about three transfer points and they're all downtown and getting from PG County to the other side of Rock Creek by train is a royal pain in the ass. More to the point, while the places I've visited are all places I've been before--many, many times--some important psychic barrier is lowered once you no longer have to drive across the breadth of the city to get to them. The casual access creates a sense of habitation, belonging, entitlement. It's the difference between being a bridge-and-tunnel kid (if that label applies when you cross neither bridge nor tunnel) versus an urbanite.
Our trips up here to the land of the Red Line, in other words, have been trips of class tourism: chances to walk the unguttered streets of diplomats and investment analysts who live in seven-figure homes and enjoy their unfettered access to the city's finest neighborhoods.
Frankly, it's beginning to get a bit much. The neighborhood is set to open a new stretch of shops that developers are billing as "the Rodeo Drive of the East Coast." While the rest of the nation staggers through a jobless recovery and a war whose costs we have barely begun to pay, the architects of those failures, and the loyal, toothless opposition, have been doing quite well for themselves. This is their big opportunity to buy into the kind of conspicuous class stratification rarely seen outside of Manhattan or Westside Los Angeles. It's not like the money wasn't already piling up when I left--it's just that living somewhere else for a while throws the area's new-gilded-age grandiosity into stark relief.
But the tradeoff is that I get to be an urbanite pedestrian for a few weeks, not an easy thing to do once you move west of the Applachians. In a better world, the walks and the Metro would be my everyday routine and not a series of increasingly busy vacations, and that's just one reason I'm glad my DC tourism is about to come to an end.