“I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same…” — David Bowie
I have loved this portion of David Bowie’s song, “Changes” for practically as long as I can remember…anything. This song was released before I turned 9 years of age, and my earliest memories of life are around 3 years of age, so it is not off by much. I couldn’t tell you much about change at that age. I could tell you about moving from one classroom to the next, or one teacher to the next. Our principal had changed from the frightening Mrs. Greene, who never smiled, to the approachable Mr. Buchanan, who seemed very friendly. By that time, I had already uttered phrases like, “when I was little”, in family discussions, and amused family members, not with the substance of what I was trying to compare, but by the mere fact that I had said, “when I was little.” Whatever meant so much to me to try to express at that time, it was always overlooked by the fact that I used that phrase. It was quite some time before I realized that they were not just asking me to repeat something not heard, but rather fascinated by my notion about time and change, where, to them, none had happened.
“Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are taking
The pace I’m goin’ through” — David Bowie
Eventually I left the first floor of my elementary school for the second floor. Then eventually I left for another school, and then another one. Soon, my dad died, and I was off to college in another city. Soon, college was over, then I was in the Marines and traveling the country and the world. Then, after about the time I use one spark plug on my lawnmower, I was out of the Marines and in California in the LAPD. Change was flowing like a fast, deep river, but it seemed steady and understandable. I thought I was gaining knowledge about my country, and my society through experience. Time would tell.
Turn and face the strange
Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers
Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time…” — David Bowie
Change arrived at our door this Winter with a fantastic opportunity. After 21 years in our home, my wife and I are moving to Washington, DC. And, since we don’t know a great deal about ‘the DMV’, we made a trip there a couple of weeks ago to, not only find a new house, but also find a new area to live. We have spent a few months getting familiar with DC, and the various styles of life in the many different neighborhoods.
This time, we thought, the changes would be easier. We have bought homes before. We have moved across country before. We have more money than before. It would seem that things should go smoothly. But, all the while we thought we were gaining knowledge about the country that we live in, the country was changing faster than we were learning.
We live in a turbulent, dare I say, angry country now. The neighborhood you choose does not quite insulate you from all of the anger, or so it seems. The first time I drove across country to California in 1984, one of my biggest worries was not being able to find water. I carried a gallon of drinking water behind each front seat just in case. Today, one of my biggest worries would be ringing someone’s door for directions, or pulling into the wrong driveway and needing to turn around. Those simple acts got two young people shot this past week. The young man is now home recovering from his physical wounds, but the young woman was killed.
While we were in Washington, DC a couple of weekends ago, our realtor was driving us around to various prospective homes. I sat in the front seat next to the realtor, and my wife sat in the back. I watched a strange and fascinating style of driving through traffic that differs from most places I have been. A simple explanation of this style is that of a low speed, aggressive, competitive style. The speeds on the surface streets and the freeways rarely become excessive. (There are speed cameras everywhere). But, the aggressive acceleration, lane changing, and honking are damned near comical. In fact, while riding with our realtor, at one point, a late model BMW came up behind us. The driver in the BMW hit his horn and stayed there for some time. Traffic was thick, and there was nowhere to go. I wondered aloud what he could possibly be complaining about. Our realtor who was originally from the NYC area, but had lived in DC with her family for over 20 years, was unconcerned. We were moving North toward Chevy Chase around this time. Eventually the guy in the BMW found a space and moved into a lane beside us on the driver’s side. I looked across the driver to his car to see if his expression matched his driving. It did. He shot an angry glare at the realtor, who never looked over at him. The anger was so out of proportion to the situation that I began laughing. I did not intend to. I wasn’t mocking the driver of the BMW. I was just shocked. When I laughed, he started laughing. That was pretty much the end of it. But, it was the short fuse anger that stuck with me. This dude went off about absolutely nothing.
And that is the “change” that I see in this country that makes it unrecognizable to me. Yes, there has always been anger, but a 16 year old kid was shot while ringing a doorbell, looking for his twin little brothers, in a neighborhood that he lived. My parents had warnings for me about where I went, and with whom, and my conduct, etc. We are all familiar with such. But, this seems like a change to me. The young woman riding in a car that was merely turning around, is gone for good. This is beyond what I ever thought my country was.
Soon, my wife and I will finally select a house, and move to a new city. We are excited about it. I was excited back in the 1980’s too, but there is a different sort of unknown to go along with the excitement this time. New horizons can be lots of fun, but this time, I confess, I am a little afraid to ask for directions.
04/20/2023 @ 12:26 pm
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
04/20/2023 @ 1:22 pm
I have no argument there, Ron. I must admit to my parents (posthumously) that racism would be around for a while. And, of course, this goes far beyond racism. Most of the fundamentals that I was taught are not as solid as I had previously thought. The US Constitution has massive holes. It was supposed to be an inspired piece of genius. It clearly isn’t. Religion is not what I learned it was, most especially my messianic Christianity. To be brief, and somewhat cheeky, Christianity is a lot more like learning to fly in Peter Pan than it is not like learning to fly in Peter Pan. When you think about it, it is make-believe nonsense which has led to more war and suffering than it has to an interview with a returned messiah. The human animal, and by extension, civilization, is less than I had been raised to believe. The thing that separates us from the pantheon of predators and prey which populate the natural world, is much less established than I was led to believe as I watched astronauts walk on the moon, and read about the prosecution of WWII’s war criminals at Nuremberg. The science and rule of law, which I thought were pillars of our civilization, now appear to be mere fads or experiments. Authoritarianism and Ivermectin are having a pretty good couple of years, and these would not have been possible in the 1960s.
04/20/2023 @ 2:25 pm
Times Book Review had 1619 on the cover this week. Superb how you entwined db and rhyme BiteY. Tangentially the task at hand makes me feel like Peter Pan. Heck-fleck offers on the new phone in hand! 3-4 weeks already of spring cleaning here in FDR’s Rustbelt raining most April Love and assured ball lightning just before the dawn. And don’t get me started what thunder does to my acute LISTENING prowess. Everything needs to be done at once: tuning forks and tuneups — too early for tulips — sad lilacs would require an auger. HOWLever I do know bad-arse luck oft precedes a change of fortune. Like too dank and raining for out-of-doors spring fessing so I curried hamburger skillet grease to the road. Splash-blotching once upon my perfectly creased Ralph Lauren white as mountain-top-snow pants! At least it’s not Louis Jadot Beaujolais I smirked. O yeah cognizant and stuptified how and who what where when and why we named a class of Atomic Bombs ‘Little Boy’. As though one day you’re reading blue-bound Americana Encyclopedias during first toddler steps and like ‘overnight’ you’re asking BARD to please show me a conversation ‘twix Pablo Picasso and Jimi Hendrix. Just maybe it’s National Screendoor Day … WAIT… WHAT’S THAT SOUND?
04/20/2023 @ 7:12 pm
I keep thinking that all these ch-ch-ch-changes over the past few years and could never have imagined what I’m seeing now. And what’s coming down the pike next? Nothing looks right. Daily life is more and more like a horror movie- before you even see the monster, you know it’s out there and a lot of folks are going to suffer.
I do see a marked increase in road rage behavior, even in the little rural community where I live. People are on edge about dopey little things that really should have no significance.
At least some of this frustration and anger comes from not being able to effect the changes we need. Our vote means less all the time when those in power manipulate things to their own advantage, and are not stopped.
04/20/2023 @ 7:24 pm
It’s true, road rage is up significantly since the pandemic shutdown. Again, thinking about my patents, I imagine a conversation with them being disappointed by how public conduct has dropped to such lows, and being required to answer to them for it. It reminds me a bit of taking my dad to my junior high and showing the crowds kids wearing Levis jeans and cords. (Dad wouldn’t allow me to wear them to school before that.). Only this time, I agree with my parents about public conduct as opposed to then.
My country might shoot me because there are too many guns. My country may become a Christo-fascist state because there is too much gerrymandering, and worst of all, my country is embarrassing me in front of my dead parents.
04/21/2023 @ 7:50 am
Moving is always a gigantic life deal. DC is wonderful though, you’ll love it, in spite of their driving practices. In Boston, our drivers are famous for their rudeness and aggression. Tip: never look them in the eye. Drive gaily and confidently along, looking fifteen feet in front of your car. The minute you acknowledge their eyeballing, screeching, and middle-fingering, you’re in for some serious heart palpitations. Also, am not sure how old you are, but I’m 68, and have discovered the old person behind the wheel schtick of looking like I’m lost, or a tourist, or confused (still, never look over at them). This seems to send them on their way.
Hear you about the growing fears of public places. I’ve found myself watching people in places like the hospital, school, restaurants, sizing them up, wondering about their intentions. One of my friends will now only sit facing the door in restaurants, so she can look at who enters.
04/21/2023 @ 9:29 am
I’ll be 60 in a few months. When I lived in Japan, they practiced the ‘never make eye contact’ strategy nationwide. It is a very effective strategy. Unfortunately, I am very much from the other camp. I connect with the eyes to get their mood, and I watch their hands to see what they are in the process of doing. It comes from my cop training, and impossible to unlearn at this point. I also keep fairly fit, and I am capable of lifting most grown men off of their feet if I need to. As I type this, I am headed to a gym appointment to lift a bunch of iron with my 23 year old trainer/task master. All that is to say, I don’t fear the confrontation as much as I fear the unseen. At the very least, I am prepared to absorb the brunt of an attack so that my wife can get away.
Here are the types of things I have edited out of my behavior because of recent events. Shopping at a place like the grocery store in Buffalo where mainly only Black people shop, that’s like wearing a ‘shoot me’ sign. Movie theaters…not so much. I especially won’t attend a film publicly that has a nihilist anti-hero like the Joker in the Batman films. Fourth of July parades…probably not. Last year there was that tragic event in Highland Park, Illinois. Things like that which I would have attended without a thought before now give me pause, at least. Now, when it comes to asking for directions, or ringing strange doorbells…well, that’s the new category to ponder.
04/21/2023 @ 2:23 pm
I had not thought of July 4th, but will definitely rethink that. MA isn’t packed full of gun carriers, but there’s a man three doors up with a Three Percenter bumper sticker on his truck, so I assume there are guns in his house.
Even though R sits facing the door, I always wonder what exactly she would do if a shooter entered. We started to have surprise shooting drills at work a couple years ago, and even though I’ve been through maybe half a dozen, I still panic and don’t really know what to do in the moment, esp since every classroom is different.
04/21/2023 @ 10:13 am
You’re only 8 years older than my son…
So , maybe you will remember this:
I’m sure that there are a handful of states where this lesson would be banned….
I spent 5 years in DC attending Howard University… 4 yrs undergrad and 1st year of law school…
My son was born in DC…
Congratulations and good luck re your move to Washington…
Despite the demographics, I’m reasonably certain that it’s not any easier ‘being green’ in DC today than it was back when I was student and became a father…
04/21/2023 @ 11:52 am
I remember it, and I love it! Your son and I were in Sesame Street’s hey day.
I’m glad you have chimed in with some DC perspective. I knew you had spent some time there. I was hoping that you and Kosher would, but I did not want to ask, fearing that might be too personal. It is quite different, and oh so fascinating.
Coincidentally about “being green”, my wife’s new job is with the FDIC. She is the expert advising the chairman on “sustainable finance”, which is a corporate euphemism for protecting banks against climate risk. The titles have to exclude any mention of “climate” to keep from getting doors slammed in their faces. It is not about climate policy per se, but rather about keeping banks from entering into financial decisions with excessive risk, and thereby threatening the financial system broadly. Her boss is a presidential appointee, and testifies before Congress, so my wife will be one of those sitting behind him during testimony. We are looking forward to the whole DC thing.
04/21/2023 @ 10:15 am
First, congratualtions and the best of luck on this new phase of your shared life. I’ve never been to D.C. but imagine you will find much to engage your inquisitive nature.
I am in a small town of 8,000 that swells to 20,000 on many of the weekends. Tourists float the economy but bring a host of associated issues. Our first responders are pushed to the maximum as standard decorum disappears for many.
My own activities tend to be mundane or nature related. The carnival atmosphere of the promenade seems mirthful but draws large crowds blinded to the fact that others live here. Restaurants flooded with city folk haven’t any appeal. I’ve never sat with my back to a door in such places. I tell myself it’s a holdover from black and white cowboy movies as a child
where the bad guy would burst through the swinging doors on a horse, shooting the chandeliers and scaring the poker players, but of course it’s not likely anymore that the lighting will be the target.
We have occasional political gatherings of meek proportions; out of towners with placards. I have watched from an imaginary safe distance, but too often those persons are touting their 2nd Amendment beliefs. There isn’t a safe distance.
My old home town is awash in gun violence in comparison to anything I experienced there in the past, where I have been held at gun point. Avoid that here seems reasonable.
I look forward to you describing your new setting and the city once you have settled.
04/21/2023 @ 3:46 pm
Abraham, Martin and John – Lyrics – Dion
04/22/2023 @ 12:53 am
I lived near DC and for a little while in it from 1970 to 1994. I occasionally do some work there and my sister lives in Maryland very close to the District line. (“The District” is local terminology for DC.) Expensive housing. Lots of traffic. But it’s a major city, so there’s a lot there. Where are you looking?
If you’re being a tourist, don’t drive around the Lincoln Memorial unless you know exactly where you’re going. You’ll end up in Virginia and you won’t know why. The good news is that it’s really easy to get back over the bridge.
If your wife is working at the downtown office, proximity to Metro would be helpful.
04/22/2023 @ 6:32 am
Yes, she’ll be downtown, right across from the White House.
We have looked everywhere. Our preference is a townhouse in the city, then our second preference is some sort of single family home in the city, and then third would be single family outside of the city. We loved a townhome in Georgetown, but it was snapped up quickly. We stayed on Capitol Hill while we were looking, and it has its upsides, but parking is rather hard to come by. We really enjoyed Dupont Circle, and proximity to parks and trails, but it tends to be a little busy. Our realtor lives in the AU park area, and we liked that a lot, but another couple of our favorites were sold before we could act. There is a nice place in the Burlieth-Hillandale area that backs up to the French Embassy, but I fully expect it to be gone in days, if not hours.
We did have the experience of leaving Georgetown headed for Capitol Hill, and the directions sent us through Virginia. It was easier to accomplish than I thought it would be once I realized the traffic never got up to enough speed to actually miss an exit. You just need to dart for your desired lane changes like it’s a game show, or something. Once I got to Virginia, all of the lane changes to get back to Capitol Hill were to the right, 1, 2, or 3 lanes.
Outside of the city, we looked at Chevy Chase. I didn’t particularly like it. I have a cousin who is a politician in Silver Spring. I wasn’t impressed with that area. It seems that the places that we like come on the market on a Thursday, and then they have an open house on a Saturday or Sunday, and then by Monday they are gone. You have to be practically standing in front of it when it goes on the market to get it.