13 December 2014, Washington, D.C. — 09:19 a.m.
I’m on my way into the city’s core, to take one shot that represents the part of the city I love the best. Sadly, I haven’t decided what precisely that is. It’s 57 minutes before time to snap my photo.
A man climbs aboard the Red Line train. I’m daydreaming and don’t even know which stop we’re on. His sign reads, “Eric Garner Rest in the Peace We Denied You on the Streets.” He’s going to a protest, another set of voices who can’t breathe in the face of abuse of police power, of racial profiling, of civil distrust and unrest.
I briefly consider following him, but decide against it. There is little time, and odds are the protest won’t begin before I’m headed back home. Later, I find I was right. We see lots of protests here in the nation’s capital. It’s not even clear if anyone else has noticed his sign as he boarded. Life is brief and protests are no longer news.
I’ve left Metro Center and I’m walking. Fast. I always walk fast. In fact, to untrained eyes, you’d think I was in a hurry pretty much anywhere I go. I run up the stairs, two at a time, because I can, not because I must. There is always time to stop, to shoot. A shooter is what I am. I decide that I won’t decide. I’ll just shoot and my WWM will be a picture of whatever is. For now, it’s guys cleaning a window on a chilly winter day.
I ‘m heading toward the White House now, not that there’s anything to see. Since the Secret Disservice allowed a couple of jumpers over the fence, they’ve tightened security. No more photos of tourists leaning against and photographing through the fence.
I’m right. All there is to see is a few tourists, befuddled at the low gates that keep them from the fence, and a small army of secret service personnel on foot, on bikes, and in secret service police vehicles.
Interesting to tourists, but the same boring crap to a native, like me. I move onward. This is, after all, really just my morning walk. Two miles to go or it won’t even count as that. I have to keep moving.
Eleven minutes to go. I’d planned to walk to the Capitol, but I forgot winter is when they tear up the ground in attempts to beautify the Mall before tourist season. There isn’t time to maneuver through the obstacle course they’ve left. There’s only the normal sites: the Monument, all 555 feet of phallic impressiveness, and the newest museum, the National Museum of African American history, still under construction.
For the first time, I notice that the new structure blocks the familiar view, and I briefly bristle at its existence. I’m in a foul mood, which is good. I shoot better when I hate everything. Ten minutes to go.
I see them. Now, I know why I came here.
The trucks. They’ve moved a couple of blocks from last year, now positioned firmly across from the Monument, strategically in the way of tourists heading from the museums to most of the major memorials.
I haven’t eaten dead cows in 30 years, but I remember the smell. The air is filled with the fragrance of simmering beef: kebabs from Egypt on Wheels or Kabob Village, fajitas or perhaps empanadas from Señor Latino (seriously), or perhaps just a cheese steak from Philly Mikes. I’m hungry, but beef doesn’t smell like food. Still, the sensory input shifts my mood, and I start clicking.
I sit for a few minutes and wait. There are few people about, mostly the vendors, all speaking in Arabic or Spanish. This is the city I like, and that is why I like it. I feel my mood easing.
The pigeons arrive. It’s nearly time to go to work. The museums open at 10 o’clock and the scavenger birds know the routine. The smells bring the people, and the people drop the food. I wonder if pigeons can smell.
I stomp at a few. I hate those flying street rats.
It’s time. I take the first shot, my worldwide moment. It’s nothing special, but it’s where I am. It’s what I do. The Monument stands guard over the horde of immigrant food vendors, each awaiting the day’s stream of smart tourists. The wise ones come in autumn and winter, when the crowds and humidity are gone. This is my home town, my moment.
I snap a few more shots. Tourist family. Flying Rats.
And the moment is over.
Time to check my partner’s shot from England and head home. With the passing of the moment, the world seems to dim back to dullness. It’s all black and white again.
Outside of the African Art museum, I check in on Maria. There are flowers in England and a bright, late afternoon sun. My world brightens back into color.
My step is lighter now. Though my back aches a bit, my pace quickens, even uphill. I stop, noticing the VW Beetle with long eyelashes beside the flock of tourists. They move on, quietly bleating and I head home. No museums today. I’ve had my moment (and a soggy, warm pretzel). Now is time for home and Maria.