Little alien bird painted in a Polanco corner, DF.
I am temporarily in another District, el Distrito Federal of Mexico City. Paseo de la Reforma is one of the main avenues in the city and it is lined with monuments and statues. This section which runs through the Bosque de Chapultepec features a series of gorgeous angel statues.
The architecture in Friendship Heights trends towards the generic, but the neighborhood is certainly well-groomed. There’s lots of greenery and flower beds that add color to the glassy buildings.
A narrated tour of Earth as seen from the International Space Station:
Image by Hermann Cuntz
And in some ways that’s what it is. All of us working together and against each other are collectively building, destroying, and rebuilding. The bright city lights catch the eye. In an ode to one of his favorite cities, Pablo Neruda writes: “Amo, Valparaíso, cuanto encierras, y cuanto irradias.” or “I love you, Valparaíso, all that you lock in, and all that you radiate out.” That’s a perfect description for all the great cities on the planet, dense collections of minds which shine bright and send out endless ideas and connections.
Washington, DC comes into view at 3:55. It’s just another cluster of light sending, and receiving signals from the rest of the network. But it contains so much — all the photos on this website are from the center of that bright light. And it is connected to almost every country on the globe, through the hundreds of embassies that are clustered here.
It’s certainly humbling to realize how small we each are individually, but also inspiring to see the planet from above like this. All of us collectively living, thinking, experiencing, and discovering what we are, what the world’s made of, and how it works.
I’ve frequently smelled horses when crossing the Taft Bridge, and I finally saw one. There is a small, mounted police unit headquartered under the bridge here.
photo by Brian Snelson
I was in school for 18 years, and only my geography teacher ever mentioned Cuba. So I know where it is. Until recently, that was about it.
The New York Times Magazine published a beautifully written article by John Jeremiah Sullivan called “Where is Cuba Going?.” I want to know — where has Cuba been? Why was it never mentioned in school? I picked up terms to associate with Cuba from little snippets of news and radio — Fidel Castro, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis. But none of these things really meant anything to me.
I’ve only begun to learn more in the last few years. It’s fascinating that there’s another whole world, just off the coast of Florida, on hostile terms with the US. Sullivan opens his article with a time-warp:
On the plane, something odd but also vaguely magical-seeming happened: namely, nobody knew what time it was. Right before we landed, the flight attendant made an announcement, in English and Spanish, that although daylight saving time recently went into effect in the States, the island didn’t observe that custom. As a result, we had caught up — our time had passed into sync with Cuban time. You will not need to change your watches. Then, moments later, she came on again and apologized. She had been wrong, she said. The time in Cuba was different.
After the plane lands, he sees a man with an ox plowing the field right next to the runway:
The fertility of Cuba is the thing you can’t put into words. I’ve never stood on a piece of ground as throbbingly, even pornographically, generative. Throw a used battery into a divot, and it will put out shoots — that’s how it feels.
The whole article is written like this. You should read it. Also check out the incredible photos of Cuba by Andrew Moore that they published alongside this story. I’m going to keep learning about this place which I know so little. More to come.
taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,
and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you’re in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,
and most of the jokes you just can’t catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,
and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.
—Wheat, not oats, dear. I’m afraid
if it’s wheat it’s none of your sowing,
nevertheless I’d like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.
The late David Rakoff said that he used to recite this poem to himself to help deal with his claustrophobia when going through an MRI. I heard it for the first time when Terry Gross asked him to recite the poem in an interview. It’s interesting what gets changed in our minds when we commit something to memory. He doesn’t change any of the meaning in the poem, but Rakoff does alter a few words here and there. Just out of curiosity, I compared the version he recited from memory on the air with the actual poem, changes are in bold:
In your next letter I wish you would say where you were going and what you were doing. How are the plays and after the plays, what other pleasures you are pursuing? Taking taxis in the middle of the night, driving as if to save your soul, where the road goes round and round the park and the meter glares like a moral owl, and all of the trees look so queer and green standing alone in big black caves. And suddenly you’re in a different place, where everything seems to happen in waves, and all of the jokes you just can’t catch, like dirty words rubbed off a slate, and the music is loud but also dim and it gets so terribly late. And coming home to the brownstone house, to the gray sidewalk, the watered street, one side of the buildings rises with the sun, like a glistening field of wheat. Wheat, not oats, dear. And if it is wheat, I’m afraid it’s none of your sowing. Nevertheless, I would like to hear what you were doing and where you were going.
I never remember poems word for word either, and it can be kind of surprising when I see one in print and notice all the little changes I’ve made along the way.
DC bound train arriving at the Grosvenor/Strathmore station last night, through the fog.
Since 2010, shoppers in DC have been charged an extra five cents per disposable bag (and given a five cent refund for each reusable bag used). WTOP reports that the tax is generating about half the revenue it was expected to, and officials are pleased:
“The intent of the law wasn’t to generate revenue. The intent of the law was to change behavior,” [Jeffrey Seltzer, District Department of the Environment associate director for stormwater management] says. “The less revenue we generate, that means the more effective the law is and the less disposable bags people are using. If we were to generate zero revenue, the law would be a complete success.”
75 percent of residents say they now use less plastic bags than they did before the law went into effect. I certainly do. Even though I tried to use reusable bags before, I would often forget them at home or in the car. Now I see that extra line on every receipt — whether it’s a 10-cent charge for forgetting my bags and needing to take two, or a 10 cent refund for remembering to bring my reusable bags. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough to make me pause before going out the door, and I rarely forget to bring reusable bags now.
Scenes like this are now less likely in DC. But I’d rather have clean rivers.