DC Friends

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
—Stephanie Perkinshandshake

I play with a community orchestra here in the “Greater Washington, DC” area, and at our last concert I struck up a pre-show conversation with one of the other musicians, a young woman of around 30.

She had been living in DC since her early twenties and during that time had played with the orchestra. She is a skilled hand on a stringed instrument called a domra.

A little over two years ago, she relocated to Portland, Maine but continues to return three times a year to play with the orchestra.

As we talked, I asked about her life in Maine and specifically why she decided to leave DC.

“All the years in DC,” she explained, “I never felt that I made any real friends… Oh, I had a good job and a good social life, but everyone seemed so transient.

She continued: “Even now I talk about my ‘friends’ as the people I care about and stay in touch with—as opposed to my ‘DC friends,’ who are people that I once knew in a fun way but never built any lasting bonds with.”

This admission surprised me. She is bright, accomplished, pretty, sincere, and has a great sense of humor. I just assumed she would be the belle of any ball, anywhere.

It got me thinking about my own links with the nation’s capital.

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Why write?


I recall an old cartoon that featured a series of monologue frames by a fuzzed 20-something. It went more or less like this:

“When I was in college I decided I wanted to be a writer.

“Writing was cool, I thought. I could write a best seller or a blockbuster screenplay… become rich, famous, go on “Letterman.” Meet chicks…

“Then, on the first day of creative writing class, the teacher told us: ‘If you want to write, the first thing you have to learn is to read. Read, read, read all the time… anything and everything you can.’

“Read? Who ever thought writing would be that hard?

“So I switched to Accounting.”

I never studied accounting or planned that writing would bring fame, fortune or Letterman. In fact, I never planned on writing as a career even though I loved words, language, and charting out thoughts in sentences and paragraphs.

Writing, I believed, was for writers. You know, the happy, tortured few who feel a great work of significance churning in their souls, begging to be put on page. That wasn’t me. I’d be too embarrassed to publicly air significant passions, inner thoughts, or—egads!—sex scenes. (Besides my soul never churned, except the time, when I was nine, that I shook hands with Roy Rogers.) Continue reading

Am I Paleo?

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”
– G.K. Chesterton


Whenever I find myself discussing new technology with someone under 30, I take a cranky pleasure in reminding the young wizards that I never even owned my first typewriter until graduate school in 1979. And that, I crow, was a manual. I then wait for their wows and bewildered expressions.

But this isn’t the start of a Luddite screed—I love all the new stuff.

And I marvel that I have owned and more or less know how to use desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It’s a matter of great pride that I’ve  made such leaps from my lumbering metallic brown Smith-Corona.

Especially when I consider that I’m the same person who used that typewriter to press out such heady theses as “The Temporal and the Ephemeral in the Poetry of François Villon” and “The Theory of Happiness in 18th Century French Literature: From Chance to Method.” (Love those colon-rich titles.) Ooof!

Nope. Now I spend most of my time behind a gentle tapboard that puffs easily edited words and letters on a screen, mostly about less serious (but far more useful) topics and trades. Only those who’ve set and lined up paper on an inky typewriter roller then hammered out words at painfully low velocity can appreciate the miracle. I hold no nostalgia for the keyed metal box. Continue reading