Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble Gobble!

Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! While the forecast of snow might be OK, the sleet I could do without.

You may ask "Where have you been?" Good question. It's been incredibly busy lately, both at work and with other stuff. Sure, I need to make time to blog... but I also need to make time to do a million other things that I'm not doing.

Some of my experiences over the last month have included:

* Spending several days in Washington DC and Northern Virginia for a professional conference. While the sessions were informative, the more fun part was exploring the city on foot and on the Metro. Those stations are so space-agey inside, and huge compared to the MetroLink stations. I am still unsure whether I prefer the turnstile-system, which the DC Metro has, over the honor system used here. Both have pluses and minuses, I guess. One think the DC system has, like the older traditional subway and El systems in other big cities, is attendants in glass booths at most of the stations. We certainly don't have that. However, the DC system does have some sections outside the central business district that operate at-grade, rather than in a subway. So in that sense, it is more like our system than a traditional urban subway.

Of course, given the high cost of housing and transportation in the DC area, I'm not sure it's somewhere I'd want to live anytime in the near future. I actually stayed at a hotel in Crystal City, a 1960s-planned community within Arlington, VA where all the buildings are connected with underground passageways to each other and to the Metro station. So, for that much at least, it was a pretty convenient place.

On the last night there, our organization sponsored a reception for members of Congress and their staffers, in one of the House office buildings. Afterwards, the place was so locked down we had quite a time figuring out which doors we could actually exit without setting off the alarms! Then we had to make our way from there to the nearest Metro stop. And I had dinner plans after that, which involved transferring at Metro Center -- where the crowds were incredibly huge -- to take the Red Line up to DuPont Circle. Later I found out about a shortcut.

Still, one night I walked up and down Pennsylvania Ave from the Capitol to the White House. Of course, you cannot really get anywhere near the White House; there's only one little spot where you can kinda see the front from the Ellipse side. And even though there were plenty of homeless people sleeping on benches outside various Federal office buildings along Pennyslvania, I felt pretty safe walking along there. Granted, I'm not sure any of those night watch guards at the various Federal buildings, the Canadian Embassy, etc. would do anything if something did happen, but it certainly seemed safer than you'd generally expect DC to be.

On the other hand, I had dinner with a cousin who lives in one of the inner-ring Maryland suburbs, a couple blocks outside the DC line, and she mentioned friends who live near the Washington Navy Yard just south of the Capitol complex who'd been mugged, etc. So despite the rapid gentrification and concomitant rise in housing prices in parts of the District, there's still a ways to go.

The other thing I noticed is how many of the ads on the Metro were from major Federal contractors -- especially at the stops at and near The Pentagon. It kinds of illuminates the obstacles that my small business clients have in even getting noticed; they certainly could not afford such an ad blitz.

* Several long drives for work after flying back from DC; one each week for the past several weeks. First, Columbia for a meeting at MU. Then, a presentation in Farmington. Then, a two-day overnight meeting at Big Cedar Lodge, located south of Branson near the Arkansas border. We also went to Cape Girardeau, but that was for my birthday, so I didn't have to drive that time. ;-)

After all that time on the highway, I'm glad we're just going a few miles for Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've lived in the neighborhood your cousin described for almost 8 years now.

at first it was sort of a ghost town and I did feel skittish walking around at night (and I'm not easily spooked). But after the Main Streets program designation (Barracks Row), it's really bounced. It was a solid area before, but now it's like new places are opening all the time and after the Eastern Market burned, the community really rallied together to save it. We realized what an "urban village" we enjoy and appreciate it all the more.

Crime does still occur, but much less than before now that we have so much more foot traffic. Whadda ya know, Jane Jacobs was right.

I like to think of Metro as being very "Logan's Run" and Metro Center def. sucks, I had to transfer or exit there for 4 years.

Ironic that an urbanist was shacked up in Crystal City. But the people that run that place do have ambitious master plans to make it more streetscape friendly. 6 years ago, there was almost nothing but generic lobbies at street level.