...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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August 05, 2005 || 10:05 am
Road trip, day 4

Fredericksburg, VA to Washington DC - 54 miles.

I've reached the Capital of this enormous country. It's an incredibly weird city. I drove in yesterday morning with a little bit of a 'soft landing' of lunch at a friend's house in a leafy suburb of the city. But then afterwards, I did like any redneck tourist, and pointed my vehicle in the direction of the seat of government - the Mall itself. After all, what else was I to do? and thus I entered a zone of impossibly big things. Enormous monolithic buildings, windowless and scaleless, separated by vast (and vaguely terrifying) boulevards. Hot, hot sidewalks with no people on them. That huge park, with its huge monuments to - well, what exactly does the Washington Monument embody? apart from that it doesn't take a fascist political system in order to erect an incredibly fascist monument, something from imperial Rome on crack?

I got quite fazed out by it all, and the crazy city traffic which I am not used to at all, so found a place to park and retreated to drink a soda under the Hirschorn Museum, before going inside to see some art. Which was nice an' all, but again, I was reminded that my year in the backwoods has in some ways rid me of much of my former understanding/appreciation/pretensions about high culture. Going to see Picasso, de Kooning, Francis Bacon is like revisiting somewhere I went on holiday a long time ago - vaguely remembering the lay of the land and how it all works, but also having to slowly re-learn to navigate and decode.

Then I emerged again, braced myself and dived back into the traffic, driving around the Capitol, veering uncertainly round some multi-lane junctions, gawping at quite how big every government department building is. Passing the USDA, I thought how strange it was that the drawings for our little house in Alabama were getting sent off to this enormously inhuman building, full of Orwellian flunkeys who would look it over and give it the stamp of approval or not. And what might they make of the little pack of drawings that practically smell of rural America, so far from this city?

Eventually I got up to my former teammate Phil's house in Columbia Heights and experienced the other side to DC - the face that has some of the highest violent crime rates in the US, the 'ghetto' in even 'nice' or 'hip' neighbourhoods. I have always gravitated to areas that aren't too 'nice' and have a gritty reality, but here, something in the mood was too much even for me. The feeling of transience, the ominous and oppressive heat, the bullet-proof glass in the 7-Eleven - or maybe it is that I have simply become too accustomed to a non-urban life.

Because, I realise more and more, cities slightly freak me out these days. The number of people, the noise, the pace, the incessant activity make me crave an escape back to the solitude of Alabama, the Outer Banks, or Dungeness. In this way, I think my year in Alabama has affected me in a way I certainly didn't expect. Even when I went back to London, a city that I have been utterly passionate about, it somehow exhausted and disoriented me.



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