26 November 2007

A November night

The bus ride home from work tonight was tainted with menace.

For the first time in ages, I chose to shut out the world with iPod and headphones while I traveled. I don't usually do the iPod outside, so it seemed to paint the world with a surreal sense of detachment. Like watching the world from behind a plate glass window, letting the music influence everything.

The bus seemed to creep through the 14th Street gridlock even slower than usual. Typical of this time of year, it was dark already (around 6pm) and it had rained earlier. Or maybe it was just the humid mist which left everything slick and gleaming.

A dark sepia gauze seemed to be hanging over the world. The title track to Coil's album Love's Secret Domain was pulsing in the headphones when I noticed the first police car speed past, racing ahead of the bus. Then another. Two minutes passed, and three more squad cars blew by, with lights flashing and wailing sirens mixing with the music in the headphones...

Give sanity a longer leash
Some of us have sharper teeth
In love's secret domain...

The police had blocked all northbound traffic on 14th street at Harvard. This was not far from my stop, so I hopped off the bus and walked it. The exact problem wasn't clear, but the greatest concentration of police was at the Trinity Towers apartment building near Irving Street.

Perhaps somebody had been shot, or maybe it was a hostage situation, or a kitty stuck in a drainpipe... Maybe somebody had just saved a bunch of money on their car insurance by switching to Geico, and went on a murderous freakout to celebrate. Who knows. Local news didn't have anything on it when I got home.

Just another night in the 'Heights.

Or was it? There was a palpable, fearsome vibe tonight. Something extra. And I began to wonder:

Is it because I witnessed some police action on 14th? Sometimes "quiet" can be menacing, and sometimes it can be peaceful. Solace and danger are very close cousins, it seems.

A tow-truck crept by slowly on 11th street, hauling a car with its passenger side crushed like cardboard. Ghosts seemed to be everywhere.

After I got home, I was inspired to walk around the block with camera and tripod. Starting with the back alley (top photo) and letting the shutter lag as long as it wished: A brief meditation on the mood of the evening. Wondering if it was real or imagined; are we still animal enough to sense true danger?

Many of us residents of DC's Ward One are a bit tense these days, due to the recent increase in violent crime. And perhaps we humans are animal enough to sense each other's fear, if not the true danger.


The light was painting streaks of feral trepidation over the alley behind the house, coloring everything with tense melancholy and making the warm comfort of home feel that much.....more. But the dawn will surely sweep away the blood and fear, won't it?

And by the way: Does anybody know what the hell happened at Trinity Towers tonight?

UPDATE, 27nov: Via DCist, we have the answer. For what it's worth.


Reya Mellicker said...

Something was definitely going on. After years of denying the power of human intuition, I've learned how to listen to my own inner voice. Well. Sometimes. Whenever I do, though, it serves me well.

Love the pics! When I listen to my ipod while walking around or on the Metro, I always feel like I'm in a movie.

Morning is more clever than evening - the ghosts are still flying around but the sunshine really helps mitigate the creeps, doesn't it?

IntangibleArts said...

RM: Sunshine does indeed purify, but I gotta say, this morning (tuesday 27th) was perfect. My very favorite conditions: Gray, chilly (but not "cold") and a firm blustery wind. The world seems at once melancholy and playful. That's the stuff.

And I actually still believe in human/animal intuition...but it seems ironic that the iPod was more of an amplifier than a distraction this time.

Strange days, these, when the seasons change...

Anonymous said...

You probably know this by now, but a kid got shot in the back last ngiht around 14th and Columbia Rd. This kid was also shot back on Oct. 31st in the same area. So yeah, you were right... and by the way, nice photos!

Econo-Girl said...

Great photos. And you should have been here five years ago. Kids were being shot on their porches.

Anonymous said...

ive been in dc most of my 51 years. the other day, i took a stroll through columbia heights, in part because i am stunned by all the changes... and yet walking
down 14th, one couldnt help but notice the close proximity of those who dont have a lot to those who have just moved in...
you could smell the tension....
and when you consider the fact that america has refused to address the issue of class disparity, well, friends, we are "in it"- as natalie portman
said in "garden state."

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Excellent post! And excellent pictures. Sad topic, but you write about it in a most evocative, poetic way.

As for violence and the tension it breeds, I live for the day we have peace and the tension it relieves.

IntangibleArts said...

Thanks for the feedback, folks...

Econo-Girl: I wasn't around 5 years ago, but I was living here 18 years ago, so yeh, the difference is crazy. It was much more of a war-zone in those days.

Anon, etc: Also true, how the "have", "have-nots" and "have-less" types are very compressed here, and getting more so. We've got a mad surge of "development" going on, which is better than stagnation, certainly.

But without addressing the needs of the old-timers and the less privileged, it's like painting over a chipped surface: it's not a true solution, just a bit of surface gloss. With luxury apartments on 14th and the huge homeless shelter going up on Georgia, it's like armies massing for a final showdown.

And yet I still love this neighborhood. I have loved it since about 1988 when I first moved here. Again, strange days...

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