Sunday, June 13, 2010

D.C. is the old Las Vegas

I’ve been in D.C. for over a week, and still have several days to go before returning to San Francisco. The work I’ve been involved with while here has been incredibly rewarding. I feel honored to have reached a place in my life where the many worlds I navigate have intersected in a project that looks specifically at the intersections of identities and experiences. Few things make a nerd like me this happy.

I’m a fan of D.C. I’m fascinated by the architecture, the posture of its D.C.-oriented inhabitants, and by the irony of invisibility of those who call it home, yet never come near the fire. Perhaps it’s a matter of survival or of structural segregation maintaining inhabitants of color at the margins of the city. Perhaps it’s simply telling of the irrelevance of policies and policy makers emanating from the cracks of old buildings. ¿Yo, qué sé?

D.C. has always struck me as a Las Vegas kind of town. The city that most know is a manufactured context comprised of piles of buildings, rigid streets, gaudy circles, and people running back and forth carrying the lives of millions in their briefcases. As with Vegas, D.C. seems to have been built to serve a specific purpose. Perhaps the only real reason is that one enters Las Vegas full of hope. Sure, we leave Vegas broke, hungover and coughing up feathered boas. Pero, ¿yo qué sé?

I have learned to appreciate D.C. in all its irony. Most of what I see as I walk through the Mall is an amalgamation of tragic contradictions. From the giant penis attributed to George Washington, to the place where the Great Aretha stood with her all-seeing “I will cut you” hat. For a brown boy from Aztlán, D.C. can stir multiple simultaneous and contradicting emotions. The ancestral in me knows I am a visitor of those who called this home centuries ago. I know they are still here. I stand in silence.

I stand at the mall and remember that this city witnessed the planned occupation of the land I have always called home; the only land my peoples have ever called home. D.C. is a complicated place. I am a complicated place.

I offer no reverence. I offer admiration toward the complexities. I offer distrust to its norms. I offer smiles to its museums. I offer laughter at its giant penis.